Last Saturday was my first chance to head down to the NAC’s Fourth Stage here in Ottawa, this time for a much anticipated performance by Thus Owls. I knew almost nothing about the band going in. I had heard a song or two, so I knew that I would be treated to some sullen but beautiful indie rock, and I knew that I had heard their name in connection with Patrick Watson, which is more than enough of an endorsement for me. Throughout the evening this band brought the small audience through crashing highs and seductive lows, and kept me completely absorbed for the entire ride.
Thus Owls put on a performance that was nothing if not dramatic. Every note played contained a unique power. Every sound had a subtlety, like each musician on stage picked each line with distinct purpose. This five-piece band delivered everything I was expecting and more. Their sound was lush and full, allowing the listeners to sink deep into the layers that were present even in their most minimalist moments. Every slow-building peak seemed to lift me out of my seat and into the cold night. In the intimate environment and incredibly precise sound, no one in the crowd dared to make the slightest sound. Thus Owls had the crowd’s unshakable attention, as if we all sat completely spellbound until the last note of each number.
Erika Angell’s voice was the centerpiece of this performance. Her craftily mobile melodies reminded me quite strikingly of Tori Amos, specifically in the way she gave each word a different bit of character. Backing her up was a host of fantastic musicians who were completely in sync with each other. Simon Angell’s guitars provided delicate chording and his fair share of raw dissonance. Parker Shper’s keyboards filled the room with atmosphere and ambiance. Morgan Moore was an unimposing but critical anchor with a constant, gigantic, and heartwarming grin. Stef Schneider was absolutely riveting on the drums, playing such complex rhythms and giving the drama a whole new life with every moment. I truly felt that at any given time I could arbitrarily pick a musician on the stage, focus entirely on him/her, and remain transfixed.
If Thus Owls rolls through your town, don’t miss it.