Antoine Architeuthis (not his real name) and Owena Archer write original songs that sound traditional and give traditional songs a contemporary sound. Clockwork Lens is their third studio album. Owena plays violin and guitar and Antoine is a multi-instrumentalist and both sing and they are supported by producer Olly Owen on drums, Lukas Drinkwater, the go-to double-bass player these days and Simon Driscoll on piano, all used with restraint.
The first track is one of their more boisterous originals. ‘The Wicked Lady’ is the story of a female highwayman called Katherine who came to a bad end; a change from the ones who ride off into the distance with the loot and more realistic, too. Her partner is named as Ralph Chaplin and that could be a random name but the real Ralph Chaplin was actually an American labour activist so it’s either a deliberate choice or an unfortunate coincidence. Next is the traditional ‘Bold Privateer’ except that Antoine & Owena have changed the text so that it seems that our hero isn’t so heroic and he is actually escaping from Polly’s brothers and friends who are out to get him – it sort of reminds me of someone.
‘Kiss From The Sun’ is another original with a traditional feel. As the story unfolded I expected it to have a tragic ending with its talk of rainy nights and white flowing gowns but, spoilers, it all comes good in the end. ‘Banks Of The Sweet Primroses’ is a traditional song that doesn’t make much sense although it is much praised by singers. He doesn’t know her (or so he says) but she accuses him of being the false deceiver and the final verse seems to be a complete non-sequitur. That’s folk music, I suppose, even though explanations have been attempted.
The title track is an anthropomorphic description of a lighthouse – various illustrations in the package are blatant clues – with a melancholy feel. Owena’s violin is particularly strong on this song and Antoine delivers a powerful vocal performance. It is followed by ‘Rivers Of Gold’, one of the record’s biggest arrangements. It’s a sort of sequel to Paul Metser’s ‘Farewell To The Gold’ but with an even more unhappy ending.
The single, ‘Our Beautiful Days’, is a charming song in praise of rural England with another big arrangement and it is certainly welcome after the preceding misery. ‘Pick Me Up’ begins with a flat tyre on the A303 and while he’s waiting for rescue, Antoine reflects on the dire condition of the country. I’m supposing these are Antoine’s words – it sounds like a male song but I could be wrong. Anyway, I’m sure Owena could change a tyre and get on her way with no problem. The song has a sort of rockabilly beat courtesy of Olly’s drums and a glorious violin solo from Owena to bring the album to a satisfying conclusion.
Clockwork Lens sees Antoine and Owena going from strength to strength. It’s very enjoyable and easy to listen to and, at the same time, gives the listener something to think about.
Artists’ website: www.antoineandowena.co.uk
‘Our Beautiful Days’ – official video: