Thus Owls
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Thus Owls

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2009 | INDIE

Montréal, Quebec, Canada | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2009
Band Alternative Folk


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Line of the Best Fit"

Sweden’s Thus Owls turned heads in 2009 with their debut album Cardiac Malformations, an experimental, jazzy and jagged record that was in stark contrast to the more honeyed hooks of their compatriots. Turning Rocks sounds much more traditional in turn, but it’s all relative, and Thus Owls set out into strange territory to begin with – so does this new offering still stand itself enough apart?

If you’ve been along for the ride then Turning Rocks’ opening salvo is a satisfying alloy; there are hooks and riffs and the usual clash of drums and imaginative instrumentation, and not at the cost of the angular textures that make the quintet such a worthwhile proposition. “Bloody War”, the record’s third of ten tracks, features more of what we might recognise as the ‘characteristic Swedish female pop vocal style’, but underpins it with jazzy percussion and double bass more reminiscent of Cardiac Malformations. By the slow burning, minimalist synths and bass drum of “A Windful of Screams” all signs point pleasingly to Turning Rocks being a more mature album than 2009’s debut and a fuller one than Harbours.

This feeling permeates the album, as do Erkia Angell’s off-kilter vocals, melodic but with a slight rasp. She has a wonderful knack for the less obvious harmony and the technical ability to back it up, sustaining soft, lilting vibrato as easily in “Ropes” as she belts out a heartfelt crescendo on the titular sixth track. Her understated talent combined with the often stark arrangements lend the album a powerfully windswept feel, a rough elegance. Though it might take a while to sink in, and indeed at careless first listen some of the tracks do feel a little underwhelming in their reverb drenched simplicity, there is depth here.

Less experimental than their past offerings, Turning Rocks finds Thus Owls in a slightly more comfortable groove without having lost their edge. It’s very much a mood piece that benefits from a concerted listen, and does peter out a little however. Nevertheless if you’re after that Swedish alt-pop feel with a more varied and less obvious bent than many of their contemporaries, about 40 of the record’s 50 minutes are pretty essential listening. Anyway, it wouldn’t be fitting somehow if it was all too easy. - Line of the Best Fit

"Ground Control"

In this age of digital production and pitch corrected presentations, it's getting harder and harder to deduce s singer's character. Once, the chambers of pop, rock, soul and R&B were packed with voices which were perfectly inimitable because they were the products of age and experience; it was possible to smell the Southern Comfort on Janis Joplin's breath when you heard her sing “Easy Rider” through a good set of headphones, could sense the desperation for notice in Ani DiFranco's voice in “Both Hands” and could feel the rasp in Patti Smith's voice across the back of your neck like coarse sand paper at the beginning of “Gloria” (where “Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine”).At one time, the voices and performances in the songs weren't technically perfect, they were better than that; they were simultaneously perfectly and imperfectly unique. That sort of spirit has lost a bit of ground with computers making it possible to meticulously “repair” performances. But hearing Thus Owls singer Erika Angell bravely allow herself to be seen and heard (seemingly) with little in the way of “improvements” made is hypnotizing. Not only do she and the rest of Thus Owls dazzle those who hear Turning Rocks, they present an excellent reminder that technology cannot compensate for a lack of talent. Thus Owls has a surplus of talent here and that's an incredibly rich treasure.

That said, even if they're expecting it as the sobering piano which opens “As Long As We Try A Little” builds up a charge, Angell's voice will still knock listeners off their feet. Equal parts concussive grief and caressing catharsis, the singer's laden voice tells a story of misfortune and captivates listeners as she does; there's a quality in that voice which seems to carefully soothe heartache, but exudes it too. In that way, both listener and artist seem to share in their mutual hurt and that ends up being the hook which holds everyone affected by the music; listeners feel as though they know how Angell is feeling and what to help her through it as she helps them, as well.

That sense of mutually satisfying catharsis endures as Turning Rocks continues and the band finds more situations to articulate that listeners are welcome to lean on the band – as long as they're welcome to lean right on back. Tracks like “How, In My Bones,” “A Windful Of Screams” (which also happens to have te coolest, most gloriously muffled beat on the album), the icy/spidery “Ropes” and the sweet and trip hop-py “White Flags Down” all beautifully wrap and then re-wrap heart-wrenching feelings and events that listeners will find they're only too happy to indulge because the sensations feel both affecting and familiar. On a comparative scale, it's worth pointing out that Thus Owls have gotten far better at sustaining the emotional center presented on Turning Rocks (the band's debut album Harbours, touched on similar fare, but couldn't stop itself from trying to warm up and play a little faster as well – which worked nowhere near as well) and are finally confident enough to not venture too terribly far from the emotionally pregnant space they occupy (and shine brightly with) here.

So what might happen now? Taking the whole album and the way it plays into account, most listeners will agree that Turning Rocks ranks as Thus Owls' best album to date, but the band also (wisely) leaves room for growth as “Thief” closes the proceedings down. The possibility that the band leaves behind here is the perfect bait; the sort that will have imaginations running hard. Those imaginations will ache to be satiated by whatever the band releases next and that's what Thus Owls' success will really hinge on; they have the raw talent, all they need is to illustrate that they have the savvy and the style to keep running with the ideas they've presented here. - Ground Control

"Thus:Owls - Cardiac Malformations 4/5"

On distans, Erika Alexandersson sometimes, sounds a bit like Karin Dreijer and there aren't that many that does that. It should be impossible. The association doesn't occur only cause their voices are warped, rather more cause they ask for attention in the same way. You have to listen.

Erika Alexandersson who is the hub in Thus:Owls, also plays in the duo Josef och Erika, the electronic duo The Moth and has released solo material under the name eRika in Japan. She has also had time to tour with the pleasent Loney dear.

But Thus:Owls is obviously the talented songwriters forum to meet an audience that doesn't get turned on by music that's called free, impro or progressiv jazz, but demands songs. This is the pop-vehicle for her crativity, packed to the brim with all the experience she has from widly different musical angles with a very obvious goal to communicate and tuch and not to pose.

The songs are fantastic, hoarse but sharp, black and merry, hot tempered and leisurely, coquettish and humble, and yes, almost impossible to describe. - Dagens Nyheter - Malena Rydell


"Bewlidering good music by Erika Alexandersson (Josef och Erika amongst other groups), whos voice is irresistible close, strong, and weak, with some of the qualitys of Anthony Hegarty. It's pop with experimental ambitions, mostly it finds it's exact way in the choice of soundscape. Almost constantly it's beautiful and suggestive, never conventional. Sometimes like Doors but with crueler syncops and braver orchestration. Erika Alexandersson is on here way to some find something big here. And she has a marvelous great and self-willed band." - Göteborgs Posten

"Free creativity that surprices 4/5"

"Erika Alexandersson is an interesting song writer and vocalist on the experimental pop scen. On top of her soloproject she also is a part of Josef och Erika and the improvisation band The Moth, she's also had time for touring both Europe and USA. Thus:Owls shows yet another phase in her career. This time with a bigger crew, with, amongst others, Cecilia Persson on piano and Martin Höper on bass. You hear Erika Alexandersson herself on vocals and she has written all the songs for "Cardiac Malformations" that are dominated by exciting experimental pop. The music pulls in several directions, free, often surpricing with sharp turns in tempo. Sometimes it feels like being in a labyrinth. At the same time there's diciplin and structure. Everything is well composed. Alexandersson varys her voice very effective; with space for closeness, distans, warmth and escape." - Hallandsposten

"Might be the best thing happened to me!"

"Thus Owls new album "Cardiac Malformations" might be the best thing ever happened to me. At least in a long time. The songs are written by Erika Alexandersson from the duo Josef och Erika and The Moth, and the members come from, amongst others, Koop and Loney dear. The whole thing makes me wanna let go of everything and go home and listen carfully in my velvet sofa. The vocals like a less maniated Karin Dreijer Andersson ( The Knife), and the sound remindes me abit of Wildbirds and Peacedrums. Sharp sounds, no pads or drowning accidents in the reverb, distinct drums/percussiouns. Oh, this can be good!" - Meny

"An unusually, rare, original and great record!"

Erika Alexandersson has mostly received attention as singer in the duo Josef och Erika. Lately she has also been singing with Loney Dear, recorded a record with the improduo The Moth and has been busy with her solo project eRika, that released a record on a japanese lable. A multifaceted singer that seems to follow her inner voice, without any interest in following fixed patterns. That description very much applies to the debut album of Thus:Owls. It started out as a developed version of eRika, that nowdays has become a new band, with an assembly of musicians that amongst others play/played with Paavo, already mentioned Loney Dear and Koop. And also the canadian guitarist Simon Angell who has been busy doing things from dramatic pop with Patrick Watson to various experimenting.

Somethimes Erika sings similar to Anna Ternheim, but she has a much wider range, and has more in common with Lindha Kallerdahl, Mariam Wallentin (Wildbirds and Peacedrums) and Ellekari Larsson (The Tiny) to mention the most obvious relatives in the swedish vocal family tree. Her voice is an instrument, something you can elaborate with, explore. She shifts between jazz, pop, rock and improvisation, sings straight out, changes the syntax, and several songs have opera-like elements that have more to do with Coco Rosie than Malena Ernman. The records last song, the powerful "The Atlantic" could be a soundtrack to a hallucination where the whole shlagerfestival flew out in space and hovered away to an unknown solar system, or if any optional arena slowly sank down in the ocean with dolphins and fish as surprised audience.

It's very hard to classify Thus:Owls. Which - of course - is only positive. A lot of things happen in the songs. Sharp as a knife, imaginary arrangements, spacious production and fast changes that are intertwined together - mostly - in a very successful way. Already in the first song, "Yellow Desert" you understand that this is music that will fly in any direction, pump organ that meets a flute, Erika Alexandersson gives the voice different shapes, the guitar whirls around a couple of laps, a pop melody pops up now and then, and everything ends very unexpectedly yet naturally.

"Climbing the fjelds of Norway" is in one way a straight pop song and in a slower tempo it could have been found on any of Josef och Erikas two albums. But even here, it's the tiny details and changes that spices the sound. "Sometimes" bounces and jumps in a crocked carnaval giddyness as Alexandersson flies with her voice, and then there's a couple of parts with strings and piano that makes me think of Lisa Germano. "Let your blood run" also brings different elements together in a surprising way. Art rock á la King Crimson speaks with vibraphone and Cecilia Persson's piano colours. The title "A volcano in my chest" speaks for itself. It sounds as if she tries to sing herself out from a locked room, singing talkatively in a fast tempo while the music escapes from a Brecht play.

However, "The sun is burning our skin" and "You arose to the Gods" become a bit still. These two are the most ordinary songs. Sweet, with a certain power of suggestion, but without the thrill in your stomach. I like it better when the songs are grand and mystical like in "Eagles coming in", "My thoughts ani't lovely" and "When she arrived". The last one has trombone, flugelhorn and fanfares, but it works. Damn beautifully produced and arranged!

I saw Thus:Owls live when Hoob celebrated 5 years last week, together with Swedish Jazz Celebration. It was their second concert or something, but even if some of the songs felt a bit unfinished for the stage it was a thrilling experience, and since the music has so much space and different angles, I believe that Thus:Owls can develop the material even more in the live context. It will be exciting to follow their future adventures. An unusually rare, original and great swedish record. - PM JÖNSSON - Soundofmusic

"Colourfull and exciting debut 4/5"

Imaginative. Their music is experimental, creative, beautiful and never predictable. Erika Alexandersson (Josef och Erika, The Moth) is the name of the groups talented songwriter, singer and multi-instrumentalist. Together with four equal minded musicians she has put together the exciting quintet Thus:Owls. The new album that came out this week has eleven tracks of changing character, expression and temperament. With colourful intstrumentation, brilliant arrangements and facsinating vocals. Erika's personal and flexible voice leaves its mark on almost everything and can be associated to Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knifes) here and there. Thus: Owls might demand some time and patience,  but if you listen to their imaginative music with open ears and minds, you'll soon find that the group has a lot to give." - Bohusläningen


Thus:Owls has without a doubt the ambiton to be experimental and succeeds predominantly well with that. In it's best moments it's both well written, different and filled with a melancholy, mystic feeling that you've heard music from a different era. Nordic folk music vibes in Climbing the fjelds of Norway meets the 80:s Tom Waits-ratteling intertwining with majestic Wagner-sounding choirs.  - Dagbladet

"Music that efuse to stay on the path."

"The feeling that surrounds you is often cinematic. Pictures of John Bauers woods are conjured up and brutaly mixed with twisted musical scenes, as if they were conducted by Lars von Trier.  At times it's dizzying and at others relaxed. Song titles like ''Climbing the fjelds of Norway'' and ''A volcano in my chest'' tells us about nature, romanticism and anxiety. But this isn't about revelry in darkness - it is by no means depressing music - only a pretty human dose of black thoroughfare; more or less like life itself." - Fria Tidningen


Thus Owls - Turning Rocks (Secret City Records)
Release date: April 8, 2014



Thus Owls are a Montreal-based band comprised of husband and wife duo Erika and Simon Angell.  The band originated in Sweden as an outlet for Erikas songs, while she was making a name for herself as a prominent vocalist in the Gothenburg and Stockholm scenes. Simon meanwhile was beginning to tour more internationally with Montreals Patrick Watson, as a founding member of his four-piece band. The two finally met when Erika was sitting in with Loney Dear, whom Patrick Watson were supporting on tour in Europe at the time. Erika recalls that she fell in love with Simons sound right away, citing the harshness and the sweetness combined of his guitar, as well as his experimental approach to music. It wasnt long before they were married, and making music together as Thus Owls. It was the last piece of the puzzle, she explains.


Or the last piece of the first puzzle. Simon moved to Sweden and, along with an existing group of Swedish musicians, made two records with Erika while he wasnt touring or recording with Patrick Watson. But it wasnt until they started spending more time back in Montreal that the bands current lineupand soundfinally came together.  Simon and Erika enlisted local drummer Stef Schneider, and keyboard player Parker Shper, to round out the permanent lineup alongside Swedish bass player Martin Hper.  Simon left Patrick Watson and Erika became a Canadian citizen. It was this core group that ultimately recorded Turning Rocks in Montreal in 2013, and whove begun to turn heads with their powerful live show. Turning Rocks will be released worldwide by Secret City Records on April 8th, 2014.


About Turning Rocks


Turning Rocks is the third album by transatlantic band Thus Owls. Its both a scrapbook of memories and oral transmissions from an island in Sweden, and a sonic experiment in tone and colour recorded in Montreal by a band clearly finding its footing.


Band Members