Ancestral Star

Thrill Jockey
thrill 253 - 2010

Evan Caminiti (guitars, vocals) and Jon Porras (guitars, vocals, drums, harmonium) met in San Francisco in 2006 and immediately started playing music together. Over the next four years, the two gradually sculpted a vast collection of hazy desert sky meditations – ominous, barren expanses of music for desert walks at dusk, and dark, pastoral passages embellished with psychedelic and atmospheric wash. A mixture between devotional ragas and dusty stomp with atmosphere and production that references shoegaze and black metal influences.

Ancestral Star, their third LP, marks the evolution of the Barn Owl sound into a territory where it has become wholly its own, transcending the sum of its influences and taking on a life of its own. At the same time, it is a more realized extension of that sound. Caminiti and Porras paid close attention to the composition of each track and its flow within the album as a whole. Engaging throughout, every moment contributes to an overall feeling of mysterious desert expanse and a sonic narrative that unfurls like a cinematic metaphysical western.

Recorded by The Norman Conquest in the fall of 2009, this was the first time that Barn Owl were able to take their time in a professional studio, fine tuning and honing the pieces over the span of a couple months. The majority of the tracks were recorded live to tape and were a mix of composed and improvised elements. The near limitless options, as far as equipment and microphones were concerned, allowed the band to shape and refine the definition of the Barn Owl sound. The extra time in the studio also allowed for other textural embellishments. Marielle Jakobsons (of Darwinsbitch, Date Palms, Myrmyr) contributed violin to "Flatlands" and "Awakening" which gave the two pieces a heavier Americana vibe and really enriched the sonic palette. The Norman Conquest lent vocals to several tracks and also played modular synth through a Marshall half-stack that added a nice low end to the title track. On "Incantation", an ensemble that Caminiti and Porras are members of called Portraits, played gong, bells, singing bowls, and other percussive metals which really lends to the ritualistic feeling of the piece. At the very least, there are 10 people playing on the track. Ancestral Star also acts as the first album in which bowed guitar is heavily explored.

In addition to having put out several releases on labels such as Root Strata, Digitalis, Not Not Fun, and Blackest Rainbow, the band also has a collaboration album called Barn Owl and the Infinite Strings Ensemble on Important Records in the works. Caminiti continues to work in visual art (illustration and printmaking mostly) and release records under his own name as well as with Lisa McGee in Higuma. Porras is a photographer and also releases solo material and has another project called Elm.  

"Touching on everything from Tibetan chanting to sludgy doom riffs, Barn Owl never produced a sound they couldn’t stretch out like taffy" - Rolling Stone

“Their latest siphon from the infinite abyss is a blackened earth opus to a dead land. In an age when most artists conjure fleeting whims, Barn Owl carve epics out of ash.” - Raven Sings the Blues

"Yet another gorgeous collection of darkly epic doomfolk dronedrift dreaminess." Aquarius



  • 1 Sundown
  • 2 Visions in Dust
  • 3 Night's Shroud
  • 4 Ancestral Star
  • 5 Cavern Hymn
  • 6 Flatlands
  • 7 Twilight
  • 8 Awakening
  • 9 Incantation
  • 10 Light from the Mesa

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