The outer edges: Barn Owl and Zombi

Barn Owl

I always thought it would be cool to ride on a spaceship. Not the Space Shuttle, but one of those old-style, 1960s models of spaceships from black and white movies, most of which got eviscerated on “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

If ever I did get that chance, I’d want some fitting music to go along with me, and unless I was watching a supernova or asteroid collisions, brutal death metal or blasphemous black metal really wouldn’t be a good choice. I’d want something that would let my imagination soar along with the stars, where I could feel in the element of passing by alien stars and worlds and wondering what they may contain. Maybe something like the dreamy haze of Nadja or even the doom drone of Sunn 0))). Sure, there are metal elements involved with both of those bands, no doubt, but there’s so much more going on than just that. You can read and think listening to those bands, and while that may not excite someone who’s looking to get face-planted in a pit, for the rest of us there’s something to this music that touches the metal realm that can be an excellent backdrop to trying to enlighten ourselves.

Two other bands fit that bill that aren’t really metal bands but do have some associations musically and spiritually. One of them is even signed to a label that’s known for championing grindcore and death metal, and their inclusion is another example of open-mindedness as a whole. The other, who we’ll discuss first, is not on a metal label at all, but they’re housed somewhere equally as liberally thinking where the band is pretty much right at home.

Barn Owl is a member of the Thrill Jockey roster, and as we know from the past, that label also claims Liturgy in its ranks. There’s a band that’s ruffled some feathers lately, huh? Good. That’s what metal’s supposed to do. But Barn Owl are entirely different than Liturgy and pretty much every one else in the metal medium. On their new EP “Shadowland,” something of a bridge between last year’s strong “Ancestral Star” and this fall’s “Lost in the Glare,” the instrumental duo of Jon Porras (synth, piano, guitar) and Evan Caminiti (guitar, synth, vocals when required, though you won’t find any here) slips into that cosmic weightlessness and sonic adventure with the opening cut “Void and Devotion.” It has a dark and somber feel, almost like a space opera funeral, and it eventually bleeds out, making way for the title cut. That track has some simple guitar jangles and a slightly dizzy melody, leading toward finale “Infinite Reach,” where the squall rises and volume threatens to bubble over, only to subside and level off into key blips. Again, not metal by sound necessarily, but anyone into drone and doom surely can find some worth on this brief but effective EP.

For more on Barn Owl, go here: http://www.electrictotem.com/

To buy “Shadowland,” go here: http://www.thrilljockey.com/catalog/index.html?id=105310

Zombi

This takes us to Zombi, whose new album “Escape Velocity” has been on the shelves for a few weeks now and likely will be remembered as one of Relapse’s most unique records of the year. That kind of happens every time this band releases an album. Those who are familiar with the band’s sci-fi, B-movie-style soundtrack-like records should be right at home here, because it’s not terribly different from what they’ve done in the past. Yet, it does distinguish itself from their last full-length, 2009’s “Spirit Animal” and stands on its own from the rest of the catalog. I know the last two sentences sound contradictory. What I mean is this band has a unique sound from which they haven’t strayed too far, yet they always find a way to make a new statement with each album.

The Pittsburgh duo – Steve Moore (bass, synth) and Anthony Paterra (drums) – has toured with some very metal bands such as ISIS and Daughters and didn’t seem out of place at all. Their new record also would be ideal for that deep-space sojourn, probably because it sounds creatively like they’re alongside you. The plinking, vintage keys and laser gun simmering on the opening title track gets you there right away, as does “Shrunken Heads,” which has a really sticky, dancey personality that sounds like the start of a new subgenre I shall dub moon dance music; the whirring, machine-like epic “DE3,” that I’d imagine would make great ring entrance music for a Japanese wrestler; and “Time of Trouble,” which feels awfully eerie when it opens but eventually settles into a deliberate drum groove and a babbling melody that dribbles out with electronic blinking. It’s a really cool sounding album, one I prefer over their last effort by a wide margin (and I like “Animal Spirits”). I imagine I’ll revisit this one quite often.

For more on Zombi, go here: http://www.zombi.us/

To buy “Escape Velocity,” go here: http://shop.relapse.com/store/product.aspx?ProductID=42897

Both Barn Owl and Zombi require that you exit your comfort zone if you’re strictly a metal-only person. There isn’t anything wrong with relying on a metallic collection only, but if you haven’t ventured beyond that realm before, these two bands might be good choices for some chance-taking. Plus, there’s a nice bit of crossover for metal fans into the aforementioned sci-fi, as well as horror and psychological dramas. If you’re one of those who like these types of films and shows, this music also may appeal to you because it might remind you of the soundtracks you’re used to hearing. It might even compel you to expand that rigid record collection or maybe even mull a trip into the cosmos.