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Deaf Center: Owl Splinters

Deaf Center’s Owl Splinters has lulled you into its web.

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Deaf Center

Owl Splinters

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By the time a grumbling low-tone of doom sneaks into “The Day I Would Never Have” a little more than half-way through its nearly 11 minutes, Deaf Center’s Owl Splinters has lulled you into its web. For the album’s first three tracks, the duo of Norwegians Erik Skodvin (cello) and Otto Totland (piano) has caressed the senses with a haunting journey. It opens with a gathering storm of textures in “Divided,” whose menace is punctured by the plangent piano that traces a lonely melody in “Time Spent.” Come the song’s close, the mood has become not so much chipper but warm enough to elicit a hesitant smile, and the following piece, “New Beginning (Tidal Darkness),” establishes a levitating mood out of a glacial cello and piano duet, where notes are spaced so far apart they’re almost beyond sight, like a truck coming over the horizon whose headlight beams you see before you know their source. “The Day I Would Never Have” is where Deaf Center finally corners you, easing the mind into this delicate composition. Totland’s piano sounds notes so soft the ear searches them out for three minutes, a concentration that allows Skodvin’s cello to sneak up behind you until its deep vibrato becomes an overbearing presence you can’t escape. Hold the Valium, break out the akvavit, open the shades if you want, because it’s going to be dark for the next 12 hours anyway, and crack open that carton of cigarettes. Nobody is going anywhere for a while.

This sort of bleak desolation is what Deaf Center expertly orchestrated on its 2005 debut full-length Pale Ravine, the sort of instrumental excursion down a blind alley that makes the Dirty Three sound like a frolic through a flowered field with your favorite girl wearing nothing but her knickers. Owl Splinters may be an even deeper plunge into the dark, where cello string frisson on “Animal Sacrifice” worries the soul and a piano line creates a troubling anxiety in “Fiction Dawn,” the sort of cold mud unknown your hand encounters when searching a lake’s floor. An acquired taste to be sure, and not what you’re going to throw on when people come over for after-party drinks and whatever else. But when seeking a certain kind of extreme oblivion, Deaf Center once again more than readily gets you there.

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