6 Dec 2011

The Owl Service - A Garland of Song - Obscure Classics ( Review )

Great Albums You May Have Missed

The Owl Service - A Garland of Song ( 2007 )

I'm fairly obsessed with cult U.K film and television from the sixties and seventies, so when I came across The Owl Service, a modern psych-folk band named after Alan Garner's cult novel and TV serial I had high hopes.
A throwback to the early seventies U.K folk rock sound, this fits in nicely with the bands of that time inspired by Fairport Convention's electrification of traditional folk material - think Mellow Candle ( who's vocalist Alison O'Donnell has recorded an e.p with Owl Service ), Mr Fox and the Trees but with more of a sinister post Wicker Man awareness.
The psychedelic elements of their music have been overstated somewhat, so it's important to approach this with the right expectations. I was expecting something a little more wyrd folk and was a little taken aback on first listen. After a few more spins though, I was convinced that they had the balance right.
The Gardener Child is a good example of what to actually expect soundwise - a respectful and dignified folk rock arrangement with a quite unexpected fuzz guitar solo - at the end of the day this is definitely more Fairport Convention than Espers. Elsewhere, sitar accompaniment lends period flavour and texture to a number of songs.
Of the originals, The Dorset Hanging Oak is the standout, and the furthest removed from their influences - a wonderfully oppressive doom folk suite which begins with a moody wordless chant, then finds some relief in a simple repeated music box motif before finally being overcome by a sitar riff which sounds like something Tony Iommi would come up with if he picked up the instrument.
Pretty fabulous stuff.

Rif Mountain, the band's record label very kindly offer a free download of the album here:


How about rewarding their generosity by proving that we're not just a bunch of free loaders and buy something from their consistently excellent back catalogue? The links below lead to their titles available on Amazon.co.uk.  The Pattern Beneath The Plough is an excellent set which combines the 2 out of print CDs The Burn Comes Down and The View From a Hill as a double CD with 9 bonus tracks from various out of print E.Ps.
The Fabric of Folk is the E.P which the Owl Service recorded with Mellow Candle's Alison O'Donnell.
Also look out for the Garland Sessions - due out on Christmas Day 2011.

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