OWANN: Saga (2021)
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
“Owann has this gift to put images on his music like few artists manage to do it”
1 Skógur 6:39
2 Von 8:08
3 Öruggur 7:14
4 Tár 20:40
5 Huggun 8:29
6 Eldfjall 13:21
(DDL 64:33) (V.F.)
(Ambient soundscapes, Poetic EM)
It's good to discover a new Owann album, even if this SAGA is the most quiet of his discography. The sequences of rhythms are contained in musical panoramas which refuse any overflow, thus privileging minimalist ambient rhythms. Rhythms that serve as bases for musical textures that are more acoustic, such as piano, guitar, violin and voices. Available for download only, this new album of Johan De Paepe depicts quite well the results of the numerous photos that the Belgian photographer shares with his friends. Moreover, he will soon produce a book of these photos in connection with the colors of this album whose titles are in Icelandic, just to bring more mysticism to a music as pure as a white flamingo born from a crossing of clouds blown by angels.
It is under a rain that showers over singing birds that Skógur (Forest) extends its buzzing bed that tries to break through to our feelings. Limpid arpeggios tinkle on this stratum of resonances and its subtle modulations which give this impression of an impulse towards other summits. And it is a little what happens when layers of Elven voices get to our ears with a mystical ode that floats in a vision of ethereal ballad, coated by a discreet acoustic guitar. Keyboard riffs, dancing a clumsy cha-cha, sculpt the beginnings of an ambient and static rhythm on which lie nice laments of a lyrical synth. And it is under the rain that Skógur extinguishes its musical night light. We find shouts of cherubs in the opening of Von (Hope). An acoustic guitar invites these cries to melt in its minimalist notes whose melancholic perfume embalms our ears of a moment of solitude. The synth stretches its cries like those of a Chinese violin, while limpid arpeggios remain embarrassed to show their presence. A bass makes beat its shadow, mimicking that metronome that gives its ok so that Von multiplies its turns while accumulating a tonal setting enriched by those arpeggios that accentuate their tones as well as a more musical shimmer. Orchestrations complete this decor which only make short work of our ears when the bass fades out its last note in a bluish shroud around the 5th minute. From then on, the acoustic guitar invites a violin for a duel whose fleeting emotion remains anchored in this bluish line. And like an artist coming back on his steps by strumming his guitar, Von goes back to where the cherubs were playing innocently. Like gusts of wind inviting the waves to crash on the reefs, Öruggur (Safe) drags out chords whose echo only serves to amplify its sound field. There is no rhythm, but we feel this tension that clings to metallic percussions rooting a point where the music crumbles to extend a serene stratum. Piano notes hide under the maternal dimension of this Chinese violin that guides us to where Öruggur has started.
The longest track of SAGA, Tár (Tears) needs no less than 6 minutes of an atmospheric flavor to start. The woosshh and wiisshh are whistling of all sides, diminishing the effect of the acoustic six-string. The purity of the nature recordings that give life to the atmospheres of this track is its richness. The ambient rhythm emerges from a suite of two bass chords, possibly from a double bass synth-patch, where the vocals of a synth are training. The movement is slow, minimalist where two other notes which resound like a forgotten guitar in an empty zone are leaning on. Then come these breaths full of voices that rustle in this dimension surrounded by a metallic wave. These breaths of mist take control of Tár after its 10th minute which gets lost in a tropical rain and its thunders, as well as these layers of voices which bring the conclusion of the title. Huggun (Spirit) is a dark and tormented track. A monasterial voices layer, including female voices, carries its affliction in a narrow corridor that could make a claustrophobic uncomfortable. Bells tinkle, initiating a passage filled with murmurs that could arouse paranoia to the same claustrophobic in a finale carried by orchestrations and the sounds of waves dying on the shore. It is also under the rain that begins Eldfjall (Volcano). Once evaporated, an ambient rhythm is forged with 3 chords hesitating as if resounding, which move sneakily. These chords become sequenced into a cha-cha for a solitaire soul. This structure turns into a bed for a poetic music served by a synth and its cooings lost in an intense mystical haze. Think of Vangelis' Soil Festivities, and you have a good idea of the evolution of this beautiful track. The voice layers are seraphic, and they give a sibylline dimension to these ambiences that a synth disguised as an acoustic guitar adorns with these vibrating resonant chords. The guitar crossed with the paths of the arpeggios ends up structuring a decent melody on this minimalist rhythm which takes a light velocity when the echoes weave a musical amplitude that has become the pinnacle of this album which needs sea breezes to find the way to its finale.
Each title having its story, Owann has this gift to put images on his music like few artists manage to do it. Besides that, the richness of SAGA is to offer a perfect electronic versus acoustic balance, creating musical panoramas where only the colours' numbers are missing to draw and complete them.
Sylvain Lupari (September 25th, 2021) ****½*
Available at OwannBandcamp