“Listening to Antoine & Owena immediately takes me away to an English festival on a hot Summer’s day with all of the sights, sounds and tastes which you can imagine go with it. Foot tapping, cider, wine, singing and dancing. The complementary tones of the guitar and violin work really well as do their voices. Antoine’s lead vocal has the confident air of the folk storyteller, delivered with style and passion. A musical friend of mine commented on the excellence of Owena’s violin playing, saying “the intonation is spot on”… Myself, I just like the sound of it!
It’s no accident that this delightful folk duo are so good at what they do because they play so many gigs with passion, energy and professionalism. Antoine & Owena are able to effortlessly balance their accomplished live set with covers and originals and I’m looking forward to hearing their latest recordings.”
-KEVIN ROWE, THE LOFT (5* FACEBOOK REVIEW)
“Delightful mix of self penned and well know traditional and contemporary covers. Varied sets with an original approach. Great musicianship.”
– KATHY DUNN, DRAX ARMS FOLK CLUB, (5* FACEBOOK REVIEW)
Something out of nothing
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 tradition
al material is as before but the outcome is rather different. The traditional songs benefit from a more th
oughtful 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.
Dai Jeffries, Folking.com, 02/03/2020
Something out of nothing
That’ll be guitar and bouzouki pklayer Antoine Architeuthis and violinist Owena Archer then, and this the Wiltshire duo’s second album, recorded at Real World Studios and augmented by drums, bass and bodhran.
As before, it’s a mix of traditional and self-penned material, getting under way with a trip to the penal colony of ‘Botany Bay’, a journey often undertaken by ships of the folk fleet, but here to set to a new tune by the duo with a simple arrangement, sung in suitably lament manner, he on lead, she harmonising, as the number builds in intensity.
It’s followed by the first of two consecutive originals, though ‘Polly Anne’ is firmly rooted in the traditional narrative of young women ill-advisedly falling for sailors, Owena providing the violin with Antoine playing a circling guitar patterns while singing of the working girl falling for the sea captain he meets at Plymouth, asking to sail with him to Lisbon as lover and companion only for things to not prove as romantic as she’d hoped, returning home to the tailor she’d abandoned, only to find him wed to another.
The second, featuring drums, is the more strident (almost prog-folk) ‘Northern Man’, on which Antoine tells of his growing up (“Raised in a two bed semi with my brother by my folks”) in Doncaster (Donny) in the 90s, watching Bullseye with his nan and granddad, playing pool in the social club with his dad on Saturdays, holidaying in Scarborough and so forth before moving south to seek his fortune, declaring, however, “You can take a man from the north but not the north out of the man”.
It’s back to traditional pastures with the 17th century ‘Benjamin Bowmaneer’, adopting the variant in which the tailor (a regular butt of jokes around this period) turns the various tools of his trade into weapons of war, albeit the lyrics adopting decidedly satirical, if not to say even anti-war, delivered here with a certain poker-faced solemnity.
They return to their own material with ‘Living On The Breadline’, a mix of trad and blues influences for an uptempo number which, telling of the fate of a Wiltshire farmer, is based on the Andover workhouse scandal of the 1840s that exposed serious flaws in the administration of the New Poor Law, the last verse noting how nothing’s much changed (“The Lords they made a promise that/One day there would be change/Instead of breaking bones, we’re taking out loans/To buy our own headstone”), especially if you substitute Universal Credit as the bone of contention. Moving further back in time, opening with what sounds like fires blazing followed by just Owena’s mournful violin, ‘Farewell, Santo Domingo’ has Antoine lugubriously telling tells of the Spanish bloody and brutal colonisation of Mexico in the 16th century (“We killed them as they worshipped/We slew them as they ate”, the narrator enlisting to avoid jail.
The last of the traditional tunes comes with their arrangement of transportation ballad ‘Van Dieman’s Land’, violin in lusty shanty form with Anf Abbott on bodhran, then three originals bring matters to a close, starting off with the slow strummed sway of the harmonised ‘Santa Rosa’, another sea-faring number underpinned by a whaler’s longing to return home (Santa Rosa Island off California being a notable location for whale sightings) , inevitably, being a folk ballad, ending in a storm and a wreck. The final two tracks sound socio-political commentary, Featuring fingerpicked guitar, ‘The Swallow’ is a folk blues which reflects on “a country I no longer recognise” populated by “people with hatred in their eyes”, the album ending with the title track, solo forlorn violin backdropping Antoine’s introductory account of Jack and Jill climbing a hill for water and coming down with a daughter, Lily, Jack getting a job at the colliery before the guitar and drums arrive and the narrative finds of Lily unable to find anything other than minimum wage work after graduating, the family doing their best to get by as the song builds to anthemic chorus stature as it takes in such issues as crippling first home debt, ending on the abrupt unaccompanied observation that you work all your life to climb the hill and always roll back down again. There seems little danger, however, that the duo’s journey is going to anything but upward and onwards
Mike Davies, FATEA Magazine
Something out of nothing
Wiltshire duo, Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer, got together in 2017, and this is their second album. Their first album, Hands, Hearts & Hangings had registered fairly strongly to generally positive reviews: and this was their chance to build on that solid start. The question then for this reviewer is, have they succeeded?
Well, just like their debut album, this is a combination of self-penned and traditional songs, again recorded at the Real World Studios. Antoine handles main vocals, bouzouki and guitar, whilst Owena supplies harmony vocals and her very accomplished violin. Again, Anf Abbott is on bodhrán, but there are two additional guests here, in Mervyn Harris on bass guitar and Luigi Cibrario on drums.
Their own songs run the gamut when it comes to subject matter, and are well constructed and convincingly told. Well done. I am convinced this duo will have legs and will be around the Folk Scene on a national level for years to come.
Dai Woosnam, Living Tradition
Hands, Hearts & Hangings
Well, this certainly doesn’t sound like a debut record and given the duo’s vast experience, I guess it was unlikely to! The playing is strong and assured, the original songs written with a sense of story and imagery that is stylistically sympathetic to the traditional numbers, all of which is captured in pristine fashion by the recording and production values.
‘Hand, Hearts & Hangings’ is a fine offering and it’s clear to see why Antoine & Owena are making such an impression in the world of folk.
Paul Jackson, Fatea Magazine – click to read full review
ANTOINE & OWENA – Hands, Hearts & Hangings (own label)
We receive a lot of unsolicited albums, often debuts from new artists. Some we may gloss over; others we play more than once. So it is with Hands, Hearts & Hangings, the first album from Wiltshire duo Antoine Architeuthis and Owena Archer. Both are experienced musicians and are beginning to make their mark, having supported Reg Meuross and Eliza and Martin Carthy. You don’t get to do that unless you’re pretty good.
Dai Jeffries, Folking.com – click to read full review