Thus Owls has a knack for splitting the difference between experimentation and accessible pop. What they create in this middle ground is something wholly alluring. From theatricality and foreboding intrigue to moments of haunting, quiet depth, the six-song Black Matter EP is a tantalizing showroom for the group’s artistry.

Based in Montreal by way of Sweden, the married duo of Erika and Simon Agnell has released three full lengths since 2009, yet this attenuated record serves as an introductory sampler for their multifaceted sound. Opening Matter is “Asleep In the Water,” beginning with something akin to a harmonium or pump organ’s wheeze. Its notes inflate and deflate along with the sawing of a cello, serving as the ominous backdrop for Erika’s Nordic voice to sprawl upon. As the tune progresses, twinkling, higher key notes and violin strings supplant the dour tonalities that sparked the song. By the midpoint, as Erika declares “I will give myself/ When I’m able,” weighty percussion shoots off and a nearly operatic grandeur possesses the track. This swelling transition is handled so deftly, you find yourself swept along without being cognizant of it.

On its heels is the clamorous title track. Stefan Schneider’s drumming comes at a rapid fire pace and does not relent, augmented by a razor guitar line and digital effects. Erika’s voice here is layered and bloodcurdling in its twisted iciness. A pulsating bass line in the verses create tension that is teased several times before getting its cathartic detonation in the form of the refrain’s barrage of synth bursts. “We’ve got it all/ If we want to,” Erika sings with an empress’s authority, her character at once intimidating and energizing in a call-to-arms way. “Shields,” by comparison, is a smoothly flowing number built around a simple, repetitive keyboard melody and rubbery beats. It sways with a jazzy fluidity, a spaciousness spreading with each minute.

For the first three tracks, Thus Owls creates an organic feel despite the abundance of synthetic instrumentation, meaning the music doesn’t seem to hail from a particular time. That changes with fourth cut, “Turn Up the Volumes,” which is distinctly futuristic sounding. Robotic beats duel with chilly cooing, synth lines fracture a crystalline form and the bass rumbles below the surface nefariously. Perhaps due to its striking quality, it is succeeded by the instrumental “Vector.” As gelid as the rest of the EP, it is likewise as captivating. Hypnotized by it, you feel as though you’re riding a wind through an arctic cave, and as such, it’s a great palate cleanser and sets the stage for the send-off of “We Leave / We Forget.” As a closer, it brings Matter full circle with a sensibility similar to the EP’s opener, beginning subtly with brushed percussion and a meditative air, then growing, growing and growing before imparting a grand finale.

Black Matter is a highly successful EP in that it at once rewards Thus Owls’ established fans with something tantalizingly new, distills their essences to but a few tracks and will pique the interest of those unfamiliar with their work.

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