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Who Would Hold You If The Sky Betrayed Us?

by Thus Owls

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1.
Bleeding 05:43
BLEEDING. I gave you almost everything. There was nothing that I couldn’t leave. I try to listen, I try to hear but there’s only ringing in my ears. What is it that I can’t see, did I poke you where you’re bleeding? I woke up by a gentle wind singing in my hair. The animals had died then, as it had always been foreseen. Then I heard the words, too dark for anyone to hold. Will my kid ever forgive me? Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? I know you well, I hear your name and your despair even in the distance. Out of water, out of fun, it’s so damaging and provoking. Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? Did I do that to you? The buried always grows around, alive or killed, it always will appear above some surface. Pushing me away to bring me in? Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? The birds that scatter when you talk are lifted from my heart. They escape across the sky like something broken. I sing to bring you here. And I don’t know my powers, I ride on an ocean's back, grey and everlasting. How does the distance taste? I sing to bring you here. I want the whales to reveal themselves, I need to know of their existence. The violence in a human; consuming, sharp and raw. Privileged enough to not admit her privilege. But everything will reach an end, each sentence, our sleep, the sun and the flowers. Cause the land does not belong to us. Steaming fruits, sinking into grass, facing the earth, embraced or eaten, in a kiss or screaming. Take me and lead me away, take me home. My light is here but I don’t know the reason, a mother for my hunger when I get hungry. Take me and lead me away, take me home. The trees stand as a forest, black lines against the white. It’s a texture I relate to. I’m on the other side, but I want to feel my body, maybe like it was. Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? I want you and I don’t want you, it’s always there between us. You’re flying closer to the sun. There’s nothing I can do to change that and it used to not concern us. Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? Did I poke you where you’re bleeding? The birds that scatter when you talk are lifted from my heart. They escape across the sky like something broken. I sing to bring you here. And I don’t know my powers, I ride on an ocean's back, grey and everlasting. How does the distance taste? I sing to bring you here. I want the whales to reveal themselves, I need to know of their existence.
2.
I FORGET WHAT I REMEMBERED. I love the most in the morning, when we are born again. Clean and awake to another. Our bodies alongside, singular and with the other, smelling like ourselves. I have lost a language and I don’t know who I am. The sounds fall in between dreams and skin, and I forget again what I remembered. What I remembered. And I forget again what I remembered. What I remembered. How true can anything become, and how do we know the difference? Everything is happening at once and I am happening with it. How true can anything become? And how do we know the difference? I do not ask about belonging, or for a voice to call when there is no other. Every hour every frequency rings in me like exclamation marks, and so I let them. I reach out and I can feel you like I haven’t before. The sounds fall in between dreams and skin and I forget again what I remembered. How true can anything become, and how do we know the difference? Everything is happening at once and I am happening with it. How true can anything become and how do we know the difference? Everything is happening at once and I am happening with it.
3.
ABOVE THE SUN. “It is not mine, so I don’t speak”. “It is not mine, so I don’t say it”. It is what is said to them and to each other. Teach my mind and teach my child, let us soak in the thought of it and dance behind my eyelids. I can be with you when I am with you. I can be with you when I am with you. I am where my body is, and my spirit’s where it wants to be. My hands, my hands and life alive. I can be with you when I am with you. I can be with you when I am with you. You could speak and rise above the sun, there’s people dancing up at the summit, but what is taken will come down, like chain out of pockets, like chain out of pockets. Who will win at playing God? Who will win at playing God? I can be with you when I am with you. I can be with you when I am with you. Who will win at playing God? Who will win at playing God? I can be with you when I am with you. I can be with you when I am with you.
4.
Balconies 05:29
BALCONIES. There’s singing from the balconies when sound is forced inside. People break and people cry but our dreams stay the same held against the morning. But our dreams stay the same held against the morning. Believing is in all directions. Holding on to the facilities. Another breath, a pause, a phase, another day. They’ll let you know what to do or be. A mothers heart is where her child is. They’ll let you know what to do or be. A mothers heart is where her child is. Believing is in all directions. Holding on to the facilities. Another breath, a pause, a phase, another day. Too much love to hold and care for to have it any other way.
5.
Lover Mother 04:38
LOVER MOTHER. A woman, a lover, an opposite, a scent. A wife, an artist, a rival, a number or a name. A passenger, a privileged, a smile, a cry, a fool. An immigrant, an innocent, a symbol, a campaign. A body, a neighbour, a reason, a memory from second grade. An experience, a fake, a disappointment, a beginning of the end. A secret, a rumour, a promise, a disgrace. A force of nature, a coward, a stranger, an event. A daughter, a sibling, a parent, a devil or a saint. A sex object, a hate object, a reminder, a friend of a friend of a friend. A heartbreak, a soulmate, a reality, a dream you dreamt. An opportunity, an inspiration, a stubborn, insecure. A devoted, an abandoned, a depressed, a light, a star. A solitude, a dreamer, a rejected, gutted and a drained. An understood, a misunderstood, a believer and a brave. A lost, a cost, a hopeless mess, a pain. A surrender, a defender, a family, a unity and a hope. A lifeline, a future, a past, a present, a beyond of beyond, of beyond. A child, a child, a child. A wild, a new, a seed. A mother, a mother, a mother, a love, a rock, a chain. Who Am I? What do you see? Who Am I? What do you see?
6.
I MISS HER LIKE MY COUNTRY. The northwest tower cries again. She came to me at that moment, like she was, how I remembered, and I missed her like my country, like something in myself. I missed her like my country, I missed her like myself.
7.
Wavelet 02:06
8.
WHO WOULD HOLD YOU? I heard it in a voice today, inside a language. Like a familiar scent coming from the basement, and I could feel it; maybe I’ll look back at this as something sacred, when I could have you again? We reach out in waves. I can see your bobbing head, up and down and down again. Your experience is not the same, you secretly enjoy this. I can’t formulate myself, muscles weakened, flexibility strained. The body speaks before I do, (it) cries and shouts inside me. But I’m forgiving, I’m forgiving, I’m forgiving, I’m forgiving. First your hands and then your voice. Time is sunken, undefined and lost inside itself. You find me floating slightly out of view. It’s time you say and I understand it. Who would take you in, if I was taken by volcanoes? Who would hold you if the sky betrayed us? You would learn about the shades of pain, while I was meadow grass, and sounds of velvet rain. Who would tell you, you are singular and everlasting? Beautiful like violent waves in an unapologetic storm. I would tell you, you are all of that. I would tell you, you are all of that. I would tell you, you are all of that. I would tell you, you are all of that. Who would take you in, if I was taken by volcanoes? Who would hold you if the sky betrayed us?
9.
Peregrine 05:34
PEREGRINE. The sun on my neck, burning the thoughts out of me. It’s the only way, there’s no other way left. With nothing to say, the boredom is louder. My hair is on fire but I long to be touched. Soaked in your kindness and in our voices. My ear to the ground and to the preachers. Did I only just start believing? Did I only just start believing? While we were dying. While we were dying. There’s a bell or an alarm. In the distance or inside me. It’s a warning or a sign I think but I can only listen. Did I only just start believing? Did I only just start believing? While we were dying. While we were dying. How can I not paint with pain? There’s a tension I could eat. Solid, tough and filling, it is mine to eat. Did I only just start believing? Did I only just start believing? While we were dying. While we were dying. I always loved the space between us, it’s shape and taste. How I would love and how you’d let me. She said; I suggest you pick one. Let it teach you what it wants and you will know what you didn’t. The word is new, the one I’m tasting. I let it roll around inside my mouth. I spit it out. Move me, make me move, with force or with love. I have to be ready, I have to be ready. A river down my spine, my armpits, my crutch and lower back. The movements, I know them well. The routine, the routine. Something has to rip to break and be broken. Something has to rip to break and be broken. The sun on my neck, burning the thoughts out of me. It’s the only way, there’s no other way left.
10.
HER BEAUTY IS SO AWAKENING. Her beauty is so awakening, we can’t hold it.
11.
Heather 03:27
HEATHER. The heather’s in my blood and in my name. I come here to have you. Smooth and hard she curves and sprawls, in and out of water. Motherly and female, I see you for what we are. Lick the salty, taste the fight. I only want to cry. I only want to cry. Drunk and teenage hungry, hunting each emotion. Drenched and saved in your waves, born and lost inside you, bloody and divine. Baptized in your morning light. I only want to cry. I only want to cry. I only want to cry.
12.
PERFECTLY YOUNGER. Pretend my voice is lost. Pretend I’m not grown up. Let the man drop to the valley of the belly. Come up and down and alongside. Like a lover late at night, half awake and horny, it comes at me in the dark, an in-between a copy of myself in another place. Come to me then, when you no longer can. Come to me then, when you no longer can, and I am perfectly younger. Perfectly younger. There are prayers in the distance, holding up the night. I hope I want you later, like I do right now. Right now. I never know what’s real, still it lives in me like a religion that I used to hold. The vow is in my name and in my blood. I remember you like that, in the grey blue bouncing off of the sky. So much like yourself that day. Your pain in place, a lonesome freedom in your face. Come to me then, when you no longer can. Come to me then, when you no longer can, and I am perfectly younger. Perfectly younger.
13.
BOUNCY CASTLE. I don’t want your touch, the limit is no touching. Give yourself to me differently, I need you differently. Swaying ponytails and children. Another living, another real. I believe I’m better here like this, I am slowly healing. None of this is real, I see there’s writing missing. Let the ringing die and let me be elastic. Let me be a bouncy castle. Soft and fun to fall in. Now how can I be anything, if I can not remember? I don’t want your touch, the limit is no touching. Give yourself to me differently, I need you differently. Frame by frame but slightly changed. Another living, another real. I believe I’m better here like this, lovers feet on pebbles. The things that die when no one sees. I listen and I listen. The things that die when no one sees. I listen and I listen. The lust to burn with no tomorrows. I listen and I listen. The lust to burn with now tomorrows. I listen and I listen. My love.

about

Thus Owls have returned with an expansive, audacious and beautiful new double-album: Who Would Hold You If The Sky Betrayed Us? is a saxophone-studded journey by one of Canada's most daring acts, an explosion of improv, poetry and visionary rock'n'roll that seeks to understand what it means to be—and belong.

Founded in Stockholm, based in Montreal, Thus Owls is the ongoing creative project of Erika and Simon Angell. The duo's fifth album sees them continue their tradition of reinvention, from their early indie records to 2015's synth-laden Black Matter EP and 2018's The Mountain That We Live Upon, which featured an ensemble of four guitarists. Here they turned to long-time collaborator Samuel Joly (drums), but also to a trio of saxophone players: Claire Devlin (tenor), Adam Kinner (tenor) and Jason Sharp (bass sax), each of whom write and perform as independent composers. The goal was not just to feature soloists, or a glossy smear of horns, but to invent a startling, aggressive new musical language—one which reflected the Angells' roots in jazz and improv, and their dream of a vivid, interwoven sound.

The process was long and unconventional, rearranged by the pandemic. Cut off from her Swedish family, Erika had begun writing lyrics that reflected on that distance and its implications, the tension between who one is and how one is perceived. "Who am I?" she asks on "Lover Mother." "What do you see?" Moving to a new country, creating a home there—this is a matter of knitting connections, just as performing for a crowd is about drawing those lines. Could Thus Owls make a music that drew out that sense of active interconnection, the way we compose and recompose ourselves?

The Angells began to meet with their new collaborators, first virtually and later in person, talking not of songs and solos but of identity and belonging. They shared poems and sounds and choreographies and podcasts, from Alice Coltrane and M. NourBese Philip to Alexander Ekman and Carl Jung. Although some of the musicians knew each other well, most were only acquaintances; over five months they shared secrets, tried trust games, played "Exquisite Corpse." "Fragility is a good place to create from," Erika says—and as these discussions unfolded into writing, rehearsals, and eventually recording sessions with Jerusalem In My Heart's Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, the new group tried to carry forward these feelings of vulnerability, curiosity and openness.

The result is 66 minutes of exhilarating, uninhibited music—a double-LP that can be listened to in full or as four sides, three or four tunes in a sequence. "The whole record is like a Thus Owls song," Simon says, unconventional and free. It's all there in its first minute: "Bleeding" opens with Erika's speak-sung poetry, the raying harmonics of Simon's 12-string guitar—tuned randomly, for overtones and drone, as a way of "shaking out" his habits. When the saxophones come in they are somehow menacing and comforting at once; then the track seems to halt, change directions, and recommence. Elsewhere there's the crisscross brass dazzle of "Balconies"; the radiant, artful progress of "I Forgot What I Remembered"; the cacophonous squall of "Perfectly Younger," suffused with aggression and desire.

Throughout it all, Thus Owls have created compositions that can be re-configured: material that extends the moment of invention outward, into new relationships. As they hit the road again, the music of Who Would Hold You If The Sky Betrayed Us? will deliberately change with them, with different live collaborators and lyrics. Every performance allows another transformation: this recording is just the first, the sound of a band in the throws of new powers, inspired by everyone from Pharoah Sanders and Patti Smith to Makaya McCraven, Jyoti and Bowie's Blackstar. "Everything is happening at once, and I am happening with it," Erika Angell sings—her voice like searchlight. "How true can anything become / and how do we know the difference?"

- Sean Michaels

credits

released March 4, 2022

All songs composed, arranged and produced by Thus Owls.
All lyrics by Erika Angell.
Heather composed by Thus Owls and Jason Sharp
Wavelet composed by Thus Owls, Claire Devlin, Adam Kinner, and Jason Sharp

Erika Angell - Vocals, Synths, Piano
Simon Angell - Guitars, Synths, Synth Bass, Electric Bass (track 8), Vocals (track 9,10)
Samuel Joly - Drums, Vocals (track 9,10).
Claire Devlin - Tenor Saxophone, Vocals (track 9,10)
Adam Kinner - Tenor Saxophone, Vocals (track 9,10)
Jason Sharp - Bass Saxophone, Modular Processing (track 7,13), Vocals (track 9,10)
Marc-André Landry - Electric Bass (track 3, 12)

Recorded by Radwan Ghazi Moumneh in February 2021 at Hotel2Tango, Montreal.
Additional recording by Christian-Adam Gilbert in March 2021 at Madame Wood, Montreal.
Additional recording, sound treatment and editing at LaTraque by Sam Joly and at home by Erika Angell and Simon Angell.

Mixed by Radwan Ghazi-Moumneh at Hotel2Tango, Montreal.
Mastered by Harris Newman at Grey Market Mastering, Montreal.

Cover Art by Louis-Alexandre Beauregard.

Graphic Design by Louis-Alexandre Beauregard and Antoine Corriveau.

This album was made possible thanks to the many great artists and wonderful people that we are blessed to have in our life. In a universe defined by your love we created this work. Thank you. Sam Joly, Claire Devlin, Adam Kinner, Jason Sharp, Marc-André Landry, Radwan Ghazi-Moumneh, Christian-Adam Gilbert, Louis-Alexandre Beauregard, Antoine Corriveau, Estelle Priest, Shaun Bronstein, Noah Bick, Kathryn Huynh, Marilyne Lacombe, Justin West, Léa Trévidic, Pierre Chamberland, Joe Gagné, Sean Michaels, Thea Metcalfe, Karen Messer and Mark Slutsky for your devotion and your support. Thank you beloved families and friends for your endless love and thank you Ingrid, our darling light.

The creation of this work was made possible thanks to the financial support of the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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Thus Owls Montreal, Québec

The mesmerizing and dark velvet sounding Thus Owls from Montreal is built around the core of Swedish-Canadian couple Erika and Simon Angell. Simon’s harshly charismatic guitar blends with the urgency of Erika’s vocals to create a sound that bends and stretches their unusual compositions into ever newer and surprising shapes. ... more

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