Ladies and Gentlemen we are floating in space
Jon Porras and Evan Caminiti, otherwise known as the drone-rock duo Barn Owl are tonight performing on a barge on the River Lagan in the shadow of the emblem of Good Friday Northern Ireland - the Waterfront Hall. Obviously. Here as part of the wider Arts Festival, Barn Owl are supporting their most recent record "Ancestral Star" (one of four released last year). The narrow, fully seated room with alcohol available on a 'bring your own' basis is fairly full of chattering punters as the musicians start into their set. The barge with its muted light, lack of advertising or a bustling bar feels like an unusual setting for a gig and the feeling is one of being out of synch with reality as you float on a river surrounded by riveted iron but this is much like the effect of Barn Owl's music.
The setting, whilst appearing odd on paper, compliments the undulating, singular nature of Barn Owl's music. Hanging over the audience is a sign from the barge's past life which reads "Receiving Store" and this seems more than apt. The audience are mere passive recipients of the squalls, swells and jangles emanating from the small stage. The crowd are certainly not in a feedback loop with Jon and Evan as they wrangle the greatest possible sound from their respective guitars and a phalanx of effects pedals.
That sound could, I suppose, be termed 'post-rock' but there is none of the drama of Godspeed or the attitude of Mogwai. Instead, Barn Owl's music is a psychedelic exploration without the usual attendant virtuosity of such a description. The best explanation I can muster is that it sounds like a radio relaying the end of a star. Static mingles with chiming bells and repeated guitar motifs which never follow the path you would expect, supported by various images from nature on a projection screen. The people who have brought their cans and bottles for company are wrapt and there is a genuine confusion as to whether applause might spoil the mood.
Playing a short set primarily taken from "Ancestral Star" at half volume (due to the regulations placed on the venue) might suggest that Barn Owl's show was restricted by external circumstances, but this venue merely amplified their qualities. The band answer questions from enthusiastic fans after the gig and autograph plenty of LPs, which implies that this Belfast crowd were more than satisfied.