Joseph Meyers, aka Sp8ce Owl, is a Petaluma, California-based artist and producer whose electronic stream of consciousness compositions are among some of the most challenging yet rewarding music available today. “Digital Breathing” is the composer’s latest single and the four-minute twenty-second track gains much from a visually dazzling accompanying video. Sp8ce Owl’s promotional clip for “Digital Breathing” doesn’t just reinforce the song but stands on its own as a memorable visual statement worth revisiting. Meyers isn’t attempting to produce lowest common denominator fare and turn a buck but, instead, stamps a unique aural signature on this new single.
Few songs glide along with such a relaxed flow. You won’t hear any wall-rattling crescendos during this song and dramatic changes in trajectory are scant. The arrangement is deceptively straightforward and unabashed despite the instrumentation, and it is the careful and subtle manipulation of dynamics that helps give the track much of its appeal. “Digital Breathing” fluctuates in minute, but perceptible, degrees.
It has likely unexpected jazz-fusion overtones. The synthesizers achieve a brass-like sound that carries the melody while secondary synth lines provide ample color. Older listeners will remember how music such as this during the 1980’s was often hamstrung by its existing technological limitations and often sounded sterile, machine-like, and cold. It is no longer the case. Steady and all-encompassing warmth radiates from the single and it likewise has a full and muscular sound.
Meyers’ production chops serve him well. His indie status doesn’t pose any impediment to achieving the same professional presentation any “major” artist enjoys and it spotlights his talents. Composing instrumental music instead of vocal-driven material may seem harder, it gives the songwriter more to do, but it’s a superficial assertion. Instrumentals cut off any shortcuts and, instead, put the songwriter’s ability to maintain the listener’s attention under a microscope. Meyers passes inspection.
The track’s construction is a great illustration of Meyers’ skill. There isn’t any single moment set up self-consciously to rivet your attention and the overall composition has an ebb and flow that listeners will recognize despite the texture. It isn’t that he’s breaking new musical ground; it is that Sp8ce Owl isn’t chasing many traditional instrumental sounds here. Embracing melody is as traditional as it comes, however, in songwriting and Meyers’ love for its potential is clear.
Sp8ce Owl’s aforementioned promotional video for “Digital Breathing” is one of those truly rare cases where many may come away from the viewing a little more educated than before. This review will not broach the subject underlying much of the song’s visual material. Sp8ce Owl’s new single, however, benefits from a video that moves far past the standard assortment of jump cuts and faux-live performances comprising the typical promo video.
Very little about this project is typical. Many listeners will come away from it, as well, certain Sp$ce Owl has far more potential than we hear here. The possibilities on display are tantalizing, however, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find music in 2022 as rigorously intelligent and deeply felt.
David Lee Marshall