Not everything that dances has a body. Water dances, as does light; words can dance on the page if they’re arranged properly. In the hands of a skilled producer, the notes of a tune often seem to dance, too. Although you’re unlikely to hear it in a disco, composer Sp8ce Owl makes dance music — electronic confections where everything seems to be in motion. The delicate but insistent beats, the bass throbs, the sweeping pads, the acrobatic melodies: it’s all mutable, shifting, synchronized, and as impeccably balanced as an acrobat in mid-stride. “Dancing In An Empty Room,” a single from his upcoming album A Room Without Walls, is a master class in the art of generating the illusion of motion, even when the musician making the sound is sitting perfectly still at his synthesizer.
The artist takes inspiration from the titans of electronic music, and echoes of the greats are audible in his music. But he’s also influenced by the world around him — the sounds of nature, the changing of the seasons, and the particular rhythms of the place he lives. Sp8ce Owl makes his songs in the middle of one of the most beautiful parts of America: Sonoma County, the heart of the wine-making region of Northern California, and a place decorated with soft, green hills, fields of wildflowers, and stands of impossibly tall trees. That sense of wonder is present in every measure Sp8ce Owl writes and records. It was the animating feature of A Future Past, the luminous debut EP he released this summer, and it blows like a spring wind through “Dancing In An Empty Room.” Here is Sp8ce Owl at his very best, spinning melodies and beats, drawing us deeper into a hand-crafted world of intriguing sound.
The “Dancing In An Empty Room” video takes us outdoors — but in keeping with the mystery of Sp8ce Owl’s music, it’s not exactly the place we know. Sp8ce Owl’s version of nature is ghost-haunted, illuminated by slanting light and cloaked in strange shadows, curiously static and dream-drenched. His central character is a ballerina, and her moves are choreographed to echo the peculiar feeling of places where she’s dancing: the grace of the forest, the slow advance of small waves at the seaside, the austerity of desert dunes, and the near-supernatural power of a quasar at the center of a spinning galaxy. Drawing connections between images, dance, and sound, finding missing links, expanding our capacity for associations — that’s what Sp8ce Owl does, and “Dancing In An Empty Room” is his most mind-expanding work yet.