Recording information: Fog Border, San Francisco (2013-2015); Liminal Sound, New York, NY (2013-2015).
Over the last several years, Barn Owl's Evan Caminiti has supplemented his guitar playing with the increased use of analog synthesizers. The band's V album employed guitars as appendages in brooding, noisy soundscapes often dominated by keyboards. On his solo offering Dream Sleep, the guitar was the central instrument, but it was greatly appended, spindled, stretched, and relayed in its expression through the resonant possibilities of the synthesizers. While in some ways a continuation, Meridian is also the mirror image of Dream Sleep. The central instrument here is Eurorack modular synthesizer, with other electronics and yes, perhaps a guitar or two embellishing the colors and textures. This is also a recording that reflects the nocturnal, but it's nowhere near as passively dreamy. Woven into its structures is a physicality that alternates between the dynamic, cinematic, darkly contemplative, and active articulation. On "Curtain," gradually developed drone and organ sounds build to a near crescendo before suddenly being overlaid with industrial sounds, sampled moaning voices, layers of tuned drones, and slow, foreboding processional loops. "Collapse," the pre-release track, commences as a single-chord wash extended by rubato backbeats, their pulse barely perceptible. Angular synth lines are woven into that ebb and flow, until a semi-industrial wave of noise claims the center. That initial chord is still there, but it's been grafted into an altogether darker, tenser mix. In its earlier moments, "Signal" recalls mid-'70s Tangerine Dream's pulsing sequencer script, though it's more mercurial and run through with waves of distortion and fragmentation à la Monte Cazazza and what sounds like guitar wafts -- barely perceptible -- through the backdrop. The track's feeling of paranoia and dread in the unwinding of this composition is as compelling as it is unnerving. The use of sub-bass on closer "Mercury" is a building block for a 100 BPM loop that remains static as wafting, dark ambient sonic washes and layers of bass tonal effects are stitched onto the main body before being stripped away, replaced by other, even more menacing ones before sampled chorale voices carry it out in a splintered swath of white noise. While Meridian continues on logically from Dream Sleep, and even Barn Owl's V, it is at another level, one more inherently focused and more overtly compositional. This is Caminiti's most holistic project to date. ~ Thom Jurek