Orbury Common peg themselves as ‘the Bristol/Stroud cosmic bucolic electronica duo’, a perfect description of music which is has one electronic foot in the here and now and the other in the verdant, pylon-free landscape of days gone by. Devil Gurning is their new EP and their first release since 2022’s LP release The Traditional Dance of Orbury Common.

The EP opens with ‘Devil Gurning’ which rolls in like mist over a languid trip-hop beat which feels designed to wake all the creatures that live deep in the forest and bring them out to play. The first into the clearing are Mermaid Chunky* (the duo of Freya and Moina, brilliantly named after a type of wool that can be bought in Shaw’s in Stroud) who add ghostly ululation in the background and bring a sing-song nursery rhyme feel to the track, like a skipping song in slow motion.

Former single ‘Constant Billy’ features Boss Morris, a group of all-female progressive Morris dancers founded in 2005 and who most recently appeared with Wet Leg at The Brits. This is an interpretation of a traditional Morris tune and Orbury Common say “Last year we invited Boss Morris to perform at the launch of our ‘Traditional Dance’ EP. We took a tune that they usually dance to and electrocuted it for our own malicious means, and delighted as they frolicked around our floating stone maypole!“. The tune is whispered and whirlpooled, phasing somewhere between an organ and harmonium.

The final two tracks on the EP are remixes of ‘Devil Gurning’ starting with LeftLeft‘s take on the song. Everything is accelerated, speeding up vocals and adding a patchwork of sounds and plenty of percussive judder which creates the feeling of brass automata crashing through a village fete.

The second remix comes from Maria Uzor who dials up the four-on-the-floor with dry splashy snares and squelchy 808-style sub-bass. The original vocals fly around like ghosts over a neon-lit village where the lawless are about to burn the farmer’s market and loot the post office.

Orbury Common say their music is “nostalgia for a past that we haven’t experienced; a blending of electronic and organic, countryside sounds and influences… trying to encapsulate and channel the prevailing atmosphere of the otherworldly place that is Orbury Common”.

That blend of old and new is akin to a crack in reality which has allowed the world of superstition and folklore to become entangled with the modern to make rustic-electronica; like a Moog made of wicker. Having grown up with films like ‘Blood On Satan’s Claw’ and ‘Witchfinder General’ and their dreamlike mix of fascination and foreboding I find Orbury Common’s music resonates strongly with me. I would happily be at the front of the queue to buy my ticket for the Scarfolk festival if they were headlining with Pye Corner Audio.

Orbury Common socials: Facebook | Instagram

NB: If you are a fan of folklore and the films I listed above then I would seek out Kier-La Janisse’s outstanding documentary history of folk horror Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched, available on DVD and streaming on Shudder.

*I can also recommend Mermaid Chunky’s album Vest which I bought as a result of reviewing this EP.

Review by Paul F Cook

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