Occultaria Of Albion review
I heard about this very recently on one of the many facebook pages I frequent. I duly subscribed, as I always do when a new podcast crosses my path. I’d planned to put it off for a while, I’ve got a few new series on the go and I’m trying to review those first. I’m also trying to avoid those pesky “queue jumpers” that inevitably appear from time to time. Every time I opened my list of podcasts though, I’d see this one calling out. This morning I finally gave in and took the plunge into the strange world of the Occultaria Of Albion.
So what’s it about?
The Occultaria Of Albion is a strange beast. At first glance (and indeed at the first episode), it appears to be one of the many folklore podcasts that are springing up like fairy rings. But scratch below the surface and you find something very interesting indeed.
The host and head archivist Richard Daniels investigates a different subject every episode, from ghosts to cryptids and UFO sightings. The episodes are split between retellings of traditional stories and interviews with eyewitnesses.
The first episode is a very low-fi release, recorded on what sounds like a mobile phone or cheap microphone. This isn’t a bad thing in this case however as I imagine him sitting in a shed that smells of creosote talking into a strange recording device. It reminds me a lot of the old Oliver Postgate animations, which were also created in a shed that no doubt smelled of creosote.
Is it any good?
After the first episode or two I wasn’t sure if I’d go the distance with this. This seems like a very low budget affair and as such the voice acting isn’t always up to scratch. There are a few occasions where you can almost see the person reading off a bit of paper. I can forgive that though because the mythology and the whole aesthetic is so good.
I’m glad I did stick with it though, because every episode gets better in terms of content.
There are a lot of genuinely funny moments and Richard Daniels is a very talented writer and host. His wit shines through any production shortcomings. Don’t think that this is just a purely comedic exercise though. There is a lot of folkloric and horror knowledge here that gets parodied very well. This is very much like Les Dawson playing the piano. You have to be very talented and knowledgeable to make something seem so “amateur”. (Please don’t take that the wrong way!)
This is also another one of those podcasts that has me wondering if it is entirely fictional or if some of the stuff presented is actually worth googling (at the risk of being caught out). As I have said previously, I don’t mind that at all. And I have to resist the urge to look up any film or book that gets mentioned.
From the analogue bleeps of the little interludes, to the very 70s hauntological look of the OoA releases on their website (they look like releases by Ghost Box or The Belbury Poly) there is a lot to love here, especially if you’re into that sort of thing. There’s a lot to love even if you’re not. Another hauntological note here is the similarity of the yoga teacher character to the legend of the Radiophonic workshop Delia Derbyshire. I’m not sure if this was an intentional impression or not, but it made me smile.
This is well worth your time to listen to. Each episode is different enough to seem fresh. I assume this is because the release schedule is somewhat “sedate”. Although as I write this, I’m awaiting the imminent release of the new episode at the end of the week. I should also point out that I’ve listened to the whole back catalogue of episodes in a day, well about 4 hours truth be told.
As I said previously, Richard Daniels is a very talented writer and I can’t help but wonder if this series would be improved if it was just him retelling these stories. The excerpt from a talk that he gave on the Halloween episode was amazing, and I could really listen to that stuff all day. I’m prepared to overlook the poor voice talent, but I’m not sure if you would be.
You may wonder when then, after my seemingly relentless nitpicking of the acting, why I gave this a five brain rating. I think in this case it is deserved because it is so bloody good. That’s the only thing that there isn’t to like, and even then the actual script is very good. So there. It’s my blog and I’m in charge!
You can get The Occultaria Of Albion here:
Or wherever you get your podcasts.
This is possibly the only podcast I’ve found that doesn’t really have it’s own webpage. The official TOoA site just recommends you search for the podcast, and the link I provided above seems to have links for all possible podcatchers.