It's taken five years for Dublin trio Autumn Owls to release their debut album, but they haven't spent that time sitting around picking their noses. With early EPs being well received, they've already toured extensively on both sides of the Atlantic and landed some decent support slots. The proof that the long lead up to 'Between Buildings, Toward The Sea' was constructive and well spent is the fact that you can't just come up with a sound this accomplished and songs so impressively well defined over night. It's taken time to refine and hone these songs and given the confident and consistent nature of the album it's been worth it. However, it's unlikely that fans who catch them at CMJ this week will come out going "oh my god, that band were so critically acclaimed and well thought out", that's not how it works, you've got to have the tunes to go with it.
Have Autumn Owls got the tunes to match their skilled craftsmanship? They have indeed, although 'Between Buildings, Toward The Sea' isn't an album that most people will instantly warm to. At first you kind of realise it's good without actually being particularly keen on it. This is something that's often the case with experimental and post-rock. Most people will agree than any of the last few Radiohead albums sound better after your brain has had a few attempts at absorbing them, and the same goes for these guys. With changing rhythms, stuttering beats, atmospheric, winding guitar lines and a slightly pained vocal, tracks like the epic 'All The Lights In New York' and 'Semaphores' take their time to embed in your brain but once they do you'll be glad of it. There's no easy route in, no foray into radio-friendly pop; just as the band put in much time and effort, a little is required from the listener too.
On the downside, as majestic as each track is, there's not much in the way of variation and it's easy to get lost. They could almost have done away with the gaps and just put out a single song marathon like Tubular Bells. 'Spider' and 'Spare Room' are about as close as we get to stand-alone tracks. Because of this 'Between Buildings...' may leave some people cold or just wash over their heads. What makes records such as this a worthy investment, is that once you've cracked that barrier there's simply so much to ingest and something new to be heard with each listen. It's very likely that Autumn Owls' music will stand the test of time well and become more lauded as time passes, particularly if they can nail it live, and given the reports so far it seems that they can. They've created an album with depth and also with hidden depths. Not one for the casual listener but if you're willing to invest some time then you'll find plenty to explore.
Autumn Owls' website
Buy the album
For more news, reviews and downloads follow The Sound Of Confusion on Facebook or Twitter