November 18, 2012

Review: The Snowy Owls | Within Yr Reach EP

Richmond, Virginia-based shoegaze quartet The Snowy Owls popped onto our radar about a year ago via the compelling digital single "Yr Eyes." The tune has proven to set the template for what has followed, as the dark, hazy promise of its JAMC-inflected fuzz and echo feels fully realized on the foursome's excellent new EP, Within Yr Reach. The act self-released the 30-minute set earlier this week and feted it with a release show in its hometown Friday night. Its eight songs double down on the band's '80s alternative rock and darkwave influences, presenting an affecting amalgamation of the early music of The Cure and The Chameleons that is as remarkable for its songwriting as it is for its consistent, pervasive tone. The Snowy Owls have a world view, and it is dark, concise, guitar-drenched and weirdly beautiful.

Within Yr Reach commences with one of the collection's two short intrumental tracks, "Pilcrow," a slow march of gauzy, reverbed chords from which catapults the firm beat of the title track. The song "Within Yr Reach" echoes It Hugs Back's early single "Other Cars Go," but eschews that band's motorik rhythmic tendencies in favor of just a touch more swing. Perhaps the best example of The Snowy Owls' relatively straightforward approach is the jaunty, feedback spangled rocker "Fortunate Isles," which trades on a sturdy rhythm, a simple arrangement of over-driven guitars, bass and drums, and well-conceived production, all of which highlight the fact that when you've got a great song with a great melody, there's no need for the extreme and heavy-handed auditory trickery many shoegaze acts favor. The foursome's respect for solid basics extends to a certain extent to fronter Matt Klimas' lyrics, which balance blurry abstraction and literal clarity, and even repeat certain imagery, to plot in simple terms the dimensions of an idealized -- if unconsummated -- relationship across the EP's eight songs. Within Yr Reach succeeds because the arrangements are relatively spartan, allowing each instrument to tumescently billow within the open aural space, even as Mr. Klimas and his band of merry men wash everything with reverbs and regularly distress the guitar leads with barely controlled distortions.

Brilliant and patient album closer "Falling" emerges from an elastic bass line into the sort of dysphoric dark vibe that made The Cure's Faith and Pornography so terribly affecting. Guitars gather for the chorus in proportion to the deepening reverb on Klimas' murky vocal. The play between the steady inevitability of quarter notes and so much saturated reverb, along with the song's wistful melody, makes it a fitting final statement for Within Yr Reach. Thanks to the good graces of Mr. Klimas, we are able to offer you a free download of the track, which you can snatch at this link. Stream the entire, excellent EP via the Bandcamp embed below; you can buy the collection at Bandcamp for a scant $3 American dollars for a limited time.

The Snowy Owls: Internerds | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitters

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