Fiona & Gorwel Owen : Releasing Birds2015 : Ofn Records
These songs were written and recorded one each month through 2014, with slow metronomic discipline despite what life turned up in the year. The album in its entirety features a consummate mix of acoustic folk and electronic instrumentation, threaded through sinuously by Fiona's rich, warm vocals.
Each song is a distinct delight.
The first track Can Never starts with a brief soundscape followed by an elegant song that has an elementally simple repeating keyboard motif and Fiona's strong, characterful voice twisting and turning around and through it. Releasing Birds is uplifting, with a spiritual theme and bright acoustic guitar refrain. Merry Go Round dips and weaves as a fairground ride should, Lakespan is hypnotic with a dark underpinning synth and a repeating, ebbing acoustic guitar.
To me the real anchor point of the collection is Hollowed-Out Tree - a very striking song/poem about a fallen tree and the cycle of life, framed by a synth and banjo.
Dan Derry has a more traditional song structure - well crafted psychedelic influenced folk. Then Across with its muffled drumbeat is the most percussive track, the tune carried by banjo and guitar accentuating abstract lyrics.
Second standout Prayer No 1 is a short, lucid and affecting prayer, with piano and banjo.
The later tracks seem more fixed in their place in the calendar. In Singing for the Cuckoo a nursery rhyme rhythm lyric swings in a September hammock, whilst Holding Autumn and Shadowsong reflect immediately their months in imagery and mood; the former is lovely - just guitar and voice, whilst the latter has winter cold in its bones and mourning in its soul.
Heartwood closes - banjo, recorded weather and overlapping voices - expressing a pagan sense of connection to nature.
The lyrics are central and poetic - they edge masterly and resonant along the line between the abstract and the concrete. The themes of nature and spirit run through the songs, but with a pervasive humanity and wisdom. The music frames and highlights the words brilliantly - often sparse, but actually layered and detailed to unerringly set the atmosphere for the lyric.
Releasing Birds is remarkable; rare in its musical conception and composition, honest in its intuitions, and a truly exceptional listen.
FIONA & GORWEL OWEN I Releasing Birds