We've memorized so thoroughly the worlds from which we come. With a lifelong obsession, we've catalogued and internalized the apparently permanent fixtures of a cherished locality until our bodies have in fact become either physical extensions or microcosmic containers of these landscapes: arms kinking in unbroken strip-mall chains, gaping mouths mimicking the enormous vacancy of an evacuated sports dome. The chief business of Frontier Ruckus is the collection and organization of these solid, unmoving markers. We spool the vast confusion and depth of existence around fast-food restaurants in anchoring tethers; we use the vacuous space of the abandoned 90s mall, now dead and tomb-like, as leaky reservoirs of overflowing memory. We turn to these devices to render memory and its innumerable landmarks somehow less crippling in their abundance to seek some agency, some proprietorship over a world as heavy and unwieldy with contents of the past as a backyard filling with nightfall.
In the 1990s my mother worked at Summit Place Mall, on the borderline between Pontiac and Waterford, Michigan. So much met at that nexus. Day met dusk and a drive home. Now it is where memory meets the present tense and struggles to recognize it. My grandfather taught me how to stand a quarter on its side in the food court there. I studied the quarter intently. I noticed the thin black line, the feeble definition separating one thing from all other objects in the world. From that perception on, I broke free from those borders and blended my body into the entire landscape of my experience. A large part of me has lived in a world of its own rearrangements and lovely eternities ever since. What I've found in this expansive nighttime of blurred place, age, and pure memory is hopefully some of what Deadmalls and Nightfalls reflects.
Breathe Owl Breathe
...There, by the heat of a wood stove, they became Breathe Owl Breathe and honed their sound "a wild rumpus of harmony and rhythm"and named their debut after its birthplace. While some peers have reveled in reinvigorating the old, weird side of Americana, the band's flare for pop-addled melodies flips the contemporary folk aesthetic, eschewing freakiness in favor of charm. It's a dynamic built on coupling clever arrangements with lyrical whimsy.
- Ashley Melzer, Paste Magazine, June|July 2010
...They carry the tendencies of such a natural feel and an under-the-sun mood that makes them seem like they are ready to eat, ready to handle. There are coos, the kinds of sounds we'd associate with owls - fittingly enough, and there are breaths that are turned into other outbursts that we'd be perfectly alright hearing out in the woods, surrounded by nothing but a darkness filled with all kinds of sounds whose origins are mysteriously concealed. Middaugh and Moreno-Beals spin splendidly together, yoking these achingly beautiful attitudes about the countryside dealing with the corruption of the ever-encroaching urban expansion, as well as a sense that there's something wearisome about all of the thinking about it to soft-sung words of prettiness. Middaugh sings, "She turns to me on the drive and says, "This city is alive," and he means the sighs and the groans that are heard. These are the signs of escape that seem obvious and they sound like still-life, holding its pose for us to gander at, for Breathe Owl Breathe to paint us through.
- Sean Moeller, Daytrotter, April 2010
Breathe Owl Breathe sing of folklore and homespun miracles, oral histories left to thaw in the earth's crust until pre-history's giant ice cubes rolled their wet bulk down the North Pole and into Canada, finally settling into extinction in what we now call the Great Lakes. It's from the shores of these bodies that Breathe Owl Breathe come (Ann Arbor, Michigan, to be precise). These are songs about being left behind, songs about being dead, songs without geography, songs worth repeating... The music is very economical " guitar, cello, drums, piano, other organic sounds" and the vocals float between folk and country, a very earnest mood... The marriage of their music and lyrics is the sort of chance meeting that becomes a 60th anniversary in a blink. Middaugh, Moreno-Beals and drummer Trevor Hobbs are easy and fluid with one another, enabling their songs to (deceptively) feel more like happy accidents than serious, premeditated songwriting. That's where their charm lies. Whether or not you're listening hardly matters: this music has always existed, and always will.
- Yancey Strickler, reviewing Ghost Glacier EP
...BoB gives each one of these little Ray Davies-in-The-Phantom-Tollbooth characters a perfectly running little folk-pop buggy to tool around in, a humming blend of folksy finger-picking, homemade knocks and clacks, and Andra Moreano-Beals' gorgeous cello, which sighs melody lines that dip and warble with a loopy generosity. Sometimes, she chimes in on backup vocals, and she sounds almost exactly like Billie Holiday as channeled by Minnie Mouse. The full-length version of Ghost Glacier is a little more autumnal in mood than the EP "the hook of "Linda" is a wistful, wordlessly hummed refrain that calls to mind late-period Tom Petty" and the touch of darkness means the album lingers longer. My favorite moment on the entire album, perhaps, is on "Baseball Diamond" where Middaugh jokes, "I feel as strong as a jungle cat" "cue goofy tiger noise" before the music drops out completely, and he sighs: "I'm kiddin'. I feel pretty bad." Then the music kicks back in, and he's got that sad-eyed smile back. And you? You're a puddle.
- Jayson Greene, reviewing Ghost Glacier
Comprised of Micah Middaugh (guitar, vocals), Andra Moreno-Beals (cello, vocals) and Trevor Hobbs (percussion), the Michigan trio Breathe Owl Breathe have a knack for wrapping universal emotions in childlike language. In the gorgeous, loping "Playing Dead," from their eMusic Selects EP, Ghost Glacier, a playground game slowly develops into a metaphor for longing and loneliness; "Sabertooth Tiger" is simultaneously about imaginary friends and the desire for protection. The band's music is terrifically disarming, Middaugh's cracked tenor ambling over acoustic guitars, Moreno-Beals' cello swooping in gracefully, like a warm breeze or a host of doves. It's the soundtrack to the Brothers Grimm, a lively stroll through the enchanted forest.
- J. Edward Keyes, eMusic
As Breathe Owl Breathe, Michigan trio Micah Middaugh, Andra Moreno-Beals and Trevor Hobbs sound as intimately familiar with woods and wild as their band name suggests, but there's an air of cosmopolitan sophistication, too. Their forest-paced, guitar-and cello-grounded "Playing Dead" has the careful, modern approach to folk production of rustic post-rock ensemble Califone, and Middaugh's weary vocal also braves Palace Brothers' Southern haints. "I got you, didn't I," Middaugh repeats in harmony with Moreno-Beals, as cymbals splash across some delicate acoustic plucking. The verses reflect nostalgically on playing dead as a child by the swing set, so this chorus comes to tell everyone they're just fooling. At the same time, the joke may be getting played on us, too: "When I was alive..." Middaugh begins one line. What, is he dead? Still, like North Carolina's similarly verdant Bowerbirds, Breathe Owl Breathe keep their lyrics earnest and un-showy ("Your hair is gray...the light is black") and then bask in organic splendor. They got me, didn't they?
- Pitchfork Forkcast review of Playing Dead
High Noon Saloon
701A. E. Washington Ave.
Madison, WI 53703
|Minimum Age: 18|
|Kid Friendly: No|
|Dog Friendly: No|
|Wheelchair Accessible: No|