heard on the wire

Abrupt in nature, offish, frazzled


Hibou is largely the work of Seattle-native Peter Michel, who makes music influenced by the city’s Discovery Park, pitch-black, candlelit concrete rooms and cheesecake.

Hibou is also the French for owl, an animal with a particular fondness for ukelele music.

The name actually came to me in a really special way. I was playing some ukulele tunes in the woods by my house up on Whidbey Island and this baby owl came and sat next to me on a log for like 30 minutes and just bobbed its head along to the music. After that my friend got me a glass owl to remember it by and on the card attached it read Hibou.¹

No-one knows what the ukelele-loving owl would make of the kind of guitar sound on this record, taken from Hibou’s Dunes EP, but it’s the kind of sound that I can listen to all day and all night.

Hibou :: Motion

Rather than seek inspiration from wildlife encounters, Battle took their name from the small Sussex town where they formed, some 940 years after the Duke of Normandy and future William I of England put the town on the map and an arrow in his predecessor’s eye. The band broke up in 2007; William’s reign was slightly longer.

Battle :: Wicked Owl

Audio MP3

William appears to have been unaware of the small village of Oldham, which isn’t mentioned in the Domesday Book survey of his new domain, despite evidence of its existence dating back to the Middle Ages. In 1894, by which time it was the thriving, affluent centre of the Lancashire cotton industry, the town was granted its coat of arms, topped by an owl. The bird, they say is an allusion to the local pronunciation of The town’s name: Owdham. William Wordsworth has an alternative explanation.

The Awoken Owl was known all around the Oldham area for being a very light sleeper and ill-tempered when roused from slumber during the day. Wordsworth, who often wandered these parts, probably makes reference to this owl in verse 42 of his poem Address to a Knot of Limestone Pavement near Todmorden:

By turn and turn, to Oldham woods
Through frozen boughs, by moonlight dazzled
Here aloft an owl surveyed
Abrupt in nature, offish, frazzled.²

The Oldham Tinkers were a folk group who sang with the accent and vernacular of their eponymous home town. This song plays tribute to the 15 people killed and hundreds injured at St Peter’s Field, Manchester on 16 August 1819, when the army charged demonstrators calling for democratic reforms.

The Oldham Tinkers :: Peterloo

Audio MP3

The Tinkers are still a going, gigging concern; the same may not be true of Gothenburg’s Sambassadeur, whose website still lists their 2012 single, Memories, as available for preorder. European, their last long player, was released over three years ago. Let’s hope they’re just too busy recording the follow-up to be bothered with updating the internet.

Sambassadeur :: Sandy Dunes

Audio MP3


Photo: Dunes by Elisabeth Haslam; some rights reserved

¹ Yon Plume | Hibou
² When Saturday Comes | Badge of the Week | Oldham Athletic

Twitter: Hibou.

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