If you already own copies of The Owl Service's twin albums from 2010, Burn Comes Down
and View from a Hill
, this two-disc album will feel like duplication to a large degree. It is, in essence, a re-release of those albums with nine additional tracks.
Of these extra tracks (and that is the most appropriate term because five of them are instrumental), three are very good indeed, and really should have been included in the previous albums; two are good instrumentals that might have just missed the cut; while the others are merely pleasant listening and not particularly memorable.
So what do we get here? The first disc adds seven tracks to The Burn Comes Down, taken from the various self-released DIY recordings that The Owl Service has produced. The first bonus track, Wake the Vaulted Echo, begins solemnly but very melodically before concluding with a "chorus" of electric guitar. It is among the best of the instrumentals. By the Setting of the Sun is a lengthy track with what is almost the typical Owl Service sound: it is quite a good composition, though slightly held back by the morose tone, slow tempo, and length. A couple of quite similar instrumentals and a relatively weak song (Maverick You Are) lead up to Fine Horseman, which is a bona fide standout: it has a particularly nice vocal by Diana Collier accompanied by some beautiful piano and guitar. Disc 1 ends with Saturnalia Song, which is a nice quirky jangly piece that would have fitted perfectly on A Garland of Song
The second disc adds two tracks to The View From a Hill, taken from the Leigh Folk Festival compilations. Both are very good. Standing on the Shore is a really nice, flowing and gently upbeat song, sung very well by two of the band's female members. Spring Strathspey, which is quite similar in style and tone, has a very good vocal by Naomi Browton and ends the album with the sound of the tide on a shore.
My rating and your own value of this album will vary according to your current Owl Service library: 8/10 if you do not own the previous albums (and you should); or 6/10 if you already do (as my chosen rating assumes). Highly recommended for anyone who is new to The Owl Service; and moderately recommended to anyone who wants to complete their collection without trying to track down copies of those DIY recordings.
On a side note, I wish that Rif Mountain would include a proper inlay with The Owl Service's albums. All except The View From a Hill have very scant information about each track.