Review: “Hollow” – Zoo Owl

downloadreviewed by Elena Gritzan

It’s midnight. You’re standing in the middle of a forest, you don’t know how you got there, and the shadows dancing among the trees make it hard to tell which direction leads where. You think that you can smell a swamp in the distance. Your anxiety turns into fear as you hear rustling in the bushes to your left; you’ve never seen anything like the creature that emerges. It looks at you quizzically through its bright, glowing eyes before opening its mouth to reveal a fog of red light. You run as fast as you can, but you know: you’ve met the Zoo Owl.

If you’ve been attending shows regularly in Toronto over the past year, you may have seen this creature in action in many venues across the city. A Zoo Owl show is a theatrical experience, replete with lasers and those glowing-light goggles, and now the first album is here to demonstrate that the songs stand on their own incredibly well.

There’s “Twin Mirror”, which builds up slowly to its arpeggiated motif, pushing the level of atmosphere to maximum with bird noises and guttural vowels that accent the magnificently executed interplay between danceable sections and textural development. And “Nemesis”, which is as sinister and powerful as the deeply sung title suggests and has drum samples in all of the right places.

The different electronic styles that Zoo Owl plays with in each song all seem to come to him completely naturally, a perfect extension of the highly curated visual image. Yet I can imagine that each detail is highly thought out and carefully considered, which makes the practically flawless execution of the complicated layers of sounds all the more impressive.

This is the kind of album that m shout “yes!” at my computer screen when the songs twist and turn. It’s turned long subways rides into compelling adventures. Hollow has solidified Zoo Owl’s status as one of the most exciting projects to come out of the city in recent years. By the time you reach the end, singing along to the refrain of “Mayflower wilted”, you’ll be glad you discovered this magnificent new species.

Top Tracks: “Vantom”, “Twin Mirror”, really everything

Rating: Hunting Call (Excellent) + *swoop*

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