A Calling West is the moniker under which Boulder, Colorado-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Matt Owen records his dreamy indie pop. The name is also a reference to his move to Boulder from his home on Long Island.
Owen had been in a slew of different types of bands previously and left his last band to focus all his energy on A Calling West. This was significant for Owen because he wanted to do everything himself; i.e. play all the instruments, record and mix everything and also write all the lyrics which is something he’d never done before. But as the record progressed Owen recruited some friends of his to help contribute to different parts of the record.
The result of this massive undertaking is his first proper full length as A Calling West called Space for Echoes. It came about as Owen noticed that the music scene in Boulder was overwhelmingly jam band heavy and he wanted to do something different. So he set his sights on making an album with influences that ranged from Sonic Youth to Bjork, from Radiohead to Pink Floyd with a little bit of video game soundtrack kind of stuff added for flair.
A Space for Echoes opens with the mellow and spacey minimalist guitar and drum workings of “Arc.” In this opener Owen lets a woman’s soaring, nearly operatic vocals slowly and tenderly sing the lyrics with a restrained fervency. Next up “Keyboard” starts up on the more upbeat side of things and then in the middle the guitar whirrs for a minute or so, like a car engine that won’t turn over and then we get a bit of jangle pop break down before some guitar picking and a teasing of feedback. It sounds at times like it might go somewhere but never really does.
The noir-ish feeling and slow grooves of “Alien” hit the mark much closer as an ode to Sonic Youth. There is more substance with the heaviness of building guitar and drums, and the vocals here sound much more confident.
“Her Name is Summer” also seeks to have a hand in a more flighty experimentalism and succeeds in much the same way, as not being overdone or over the top. Owen and company seem to be best when not trying to show off and just letting the music speak for itself. The instrumental “Forest” seems another good indication of this also. It’s a simple guitar-picked tune of the kind one might pluck out sitting on the front porch watching the sunset.
Being a one man band can come with its privileges but also has so many downfalls. The record has very little variance in the way that it sounds. In many places A Space for Echoes sounds like it was one long song. Perhaps a second member could act as a foil and help to flush out the next round of songs of this musical monolith.
Overall, this an impressive solo album. Recommended
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