Breathe Owl Breathe

Passage of Pegasus (s/r)

Contact Jessica Linker about Breathe Owl Breathe

The music of Breathe Owl Breathe has always been steeped in magic. Their songs seem to occupy that hazy space between wakefulness and dreaming—where the tangible, earthly world meets the transcendental. It’s been nearly a decade since this trio of friends began making music in a remote cabin tucked away in a Northern Michigan river valley, but despite the growth and experiences that have happened along the way—including recording five albums, releasing a children’s book, and logging several cross-country tours—the band’s sound is still deeply rooted in the mysticism, warmth and wide-eyed wonder that imbued their earliest songs.


Passage of Pegasus, Breathe Owl Breathe’s sixth album, is in many ways a return to that world. But it also marks an evolution: the songwriting has grown, the compositions are more textured. This is a rich, complex record: Each song is like a little diorama, constructed with engaging imagery, beautiful harmonies, and affectional (at times minimal, other times cacophonous) instrumentation. Crafted over a two-year period in various homes and studios between the West Coast and Midwest, many of the songs went through intense versioning, while others waited in the wings for the rest to find their positions on the album. As such, Passage of Pegasus captures the spirit of an odyssey, and the listener can’t help but be pulled along for the ride.


The stories and sentiments on Passage of Pegasusfeel like a peek into the personal folklore of frontman and lyricist Micah Middaugh, whose broken baritone delivers each line with heart-on-sleeve sincerity. “Emptiness, you are dismissed,” he commands in the album’s opening line, from “Vision Quest”—a cinematic, forward-propelling track whose title is a hint at the kind of journey the album delivers. Throughout that journey, characters swoop in and out as they navigate a range of emotional and physical landscapes that come alive with cellist Andréa Moreno-Beals’ brilliant string arrangements and the sensitive work of percussionist and keyboardist Trevor Hobbs. Some of these songs are hopeful, others heartbreaking; by the time the lingering ethereal notes of “Two Moths,” the final track, fade out, the listener can’t help but feel comfortably carried beyond the abyss.


In another departure from previous albums, Breathe Owl Breathe also called in some outside sources to help shape these songs, pulling together some of their favorite musical friendships forged while touring for their previous album, “Magic Central.” These kindred spirits include Jim Becker, Victoria Williams, Michael Hurley, Little Wings’ Kyle Field, and The Fruit Bats’ Eric D. Johnson, who produced the album. Additionally, “Passage of Pegasus” looks and feels as handmade as possible—each album cover is a unique, individually numbered piece of art, pressed with handset type and copper-block images crafted by Micah. Two Michigan printing luminaries, Chad Pastonik of Deepwoods Press and George Wietor of Issue Press, both oriented toward different printmaking aesthetics, also lent their hands to bring Micah’s artistic perspective to fruition.


In the weeks leading up to the release of Passage of Pegasus, Micah, Andréa and Trevor hit an unexpected and unthinkable roadblock on their journey: While on the West Coast for a brief concert tour, their beloved van, Cassette Canyon, was stolen, along with all their instruments and equipment in it. The van was found a few days later, pillaged and totaled, but their gear was gone. Though devastating, the setback sparked an avalanche of support from the band’s community of friends, family and fans, which continues to manifest through encouragement and assistance in many forms. Despite the loss, the Breathe Owl Breathe decided to push forward, bolstered by the support and growing from the experience.


Passage of Pegasus marks a turning point for Breathe Owl Breathe. Micah, Andréa and Trevor have matured individually as artists, honed their collective vision, and deepened their connection to that which inspires them to create. They’ve firmly taken the reins in determining their own destiny as collaborators: booking their own concerts in unexpected locations, releasing the album without the assistance of a label, guiding every step of the process with their own hands. The result of this determined independence is a bright new body of work that feels fresh and yet familiar. Longtime fans will be delighted, and new ones will no doubt continue to fall for the magic that is Breathe Owl Breathe.