Something Out Of Nothing is the second album by Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer and I enjoyed their debut, Hands, Hearts & Hangings, very much. The mix of original and traditional material is as before but the outcome is rather different. The traditional songs benefit from a more thoughtful delivery without losing any of their power and the original songs have a slightly harder edge without the mystic touches that flavoured their debut.
The set opens with ‘Botany Bay’. There are so many variants on the song from rousing Irish singalongs to grim Australian ballads but Anotoine and Owena’s version is thoughtful; a warning to young men. It starts gently but builds to a fine climax. ‘Polly Anne’ is the first of the original songs but it could be taken for a traditional story – a young woman is swept off her feet by a young sea captain but regrets her decision, returns home and…regrets her decision. Folk songs are like that, even modern ones.
Antoine is from Salisbury, as is Owena, but in ‘Northern Man’ he tries to tell us different. The period details are so right that I can’t help but wonder whose story of a Doncaster childhood is actually being told. I’m beginning to develop a theory because ‘Living On The Breadline’ tells of a young man who works on a farm in Wiltshire, at least at the beginning of the song, but the setting is a historical one although the parallels with modern-day gang-masters are obvious.
‘Farewell, Santo Domingo’ is another historical song concerning the colonisation of Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century and it’s a suitably bloody account. There are two other traditional songs; ‘Benjamin Bowmaneer’ and ‘Van Dieman’s Land’ – the latter sees Owena’s violin rocking up a storm. Anf Abbott appears on bodhran again and Antoine & Owena have enriched their musical palette with the support of Mervyn Harris on bass and Luigi Cibrario on drums. The sound on Something Out Of Nothing is really very good.
The remaining three songs are all original. ‘Santa Rosa’ picks up the sea-faring theme again; ‘The Swallow’ is about the desire to escape from the country that England has become and the title track is the story of the cover illustration and another commentary on the state of the nation. Antoine and Owena have made a fine album that’s even better than their debut.
Artists’ website: http://www.antoineandowena.co.uk/
‘Van Dieman’s Land’ – live: