For those who like their quiet earnest folk music served with a side of childlike whimsy, there is Michigan’s Breathe Owl Breathe, touring throughout February and into March with Yann Tiersen. On vox, Micah Middaugh and Andrea Moreno-Beals are a beautiful pair, duetting operatic scales with whispered delivery that hits the right spot of quiet, simple beauty.
In contrast with their understated sound, BOB’s affected tweeness eventually became slightly grating, finally hitting the apex of twee during the elaborate explanation of their song about a werewolf and his relationship with his mother… Now, I’ve heard good songs about zombies, lonely evil geniuses, and vampires, (OK, vampire-ish, on that last one) so you can’t say it’s the subject matter that turned me off. I did give it a fair shake, but the wolf hat and over-the-top heartbroken howling finally did me in. Needless to say, the funniest Oh-No-You-Didn’t-Just reaction came from Mr. Burly Tattooed Security Guard next to me, who was clearly not amused. But to be honest, it was a small bit of awkwardness on an otherwise good set.
On a frigid February night, Yann Tiersen is clearly for lovers; at least he is from where I was sitting, surrounded by pair after pair of dopey-eyed canoodlers. Seemingly every couple in town was at Metropolis on Monday night, one of which kept glaring at me in my journalistic-immunity-approved perch on the stairs that everyone else was getting kicked off of. (Covetous, much? What do you care, you’re getting laid tonight. Settle down.)
If Tiersen’s set favoured more the multi-instrumental psychedelic garage rock than the quirky and melancholic French-folk sound, maybe it’s because BOB picked up the whimsy stick and ran away with it. For those more familiar with his typewriter-as-one-of-many-instruments compositions, they were in for something different, with the band performing in a dynamic range spanning soaring psychedelia to ceilidh crash. Considering this, hearing Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage” during the intermission between sets seems to have been prescient.
Probably most striking from the evening was the silent rage and hypnotic delivery of “Palestine,” a minimalist declaration of existence with the title spelled out over and over again against the background crescendo. Simple and stripped of polemic, it becomes defiant in its simple presence, finally becoming disassembled at the end as the letters spin out of order. On a night filled with lovers, Tiersen & Co. were at times rowdy and brilliant, at others quiet and intense, performing intricate instrumentals as meditations on familiar themes of love and loss. The were definitely not content to stick with one sound for too long; from such a strikingly original composer, it was a love letter to both the familiar and the unexpected.
© Liz Keith, Music Vice
Pictures of Breathe Owl Breathe and Yann Tiersen at Metropolis, Montreal: