12CD - Martin Archer - Winter Pilgrim Arriving

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Martin Archer at Simunye, Sheffield



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This CD is my first in my own name since 1997's piano-based "88 Enemies", and is the first on Discus since the 1998 collaboration with Simon H Fell "Pure Water Construction". It follows the pattern of my previous "core music" release "Ghost lily cascade" (1996) by using a small group of players who are drawn on in different combinations for each piece.


My feeling as I was making the record throughout 1999 was that it represented a change in emphasis for me. Since I stopped playing live and having a real group at the beginning of the 1990s, all of my subsequent studio work had tended to revolve round the collaging of my own and other players improvisations, made at different times and different locations, into composed structures. I think this method was pretty well worked through by the time Simon and I finished "Pure Water Construction", and it was also a method which was becoming pretty commonly used and therefore didn't feel as new and exciting to me as it previously had. So on this CD the musicians were for the most part aware of the context into which their playing was going, and were able to hear the parts which were already laid down. This involved me in telling people what to do more than usual, which in turn lead me to notate some elements of almost every track, somewhat to my surprise, this being a chore which I'd previously consigned to history. Also the music has taken a more rhythmic and tonal (at least in some places) direction than most of my previous stuff, probably as a consequence of it being more guitar driven. My first idea for this record was that a pair of acoustic guitars should keep appearing throughout. Listening back, my own electronic sounds are pared right back - piano and organ sounds are dominant. Oh, and I learned to play clarinet and got interested in the saxophone again.


Emotionally and sonically this record is deliberately located in the early 70s, the time when I was learning about music by listening not only to Miles, Softs, Henry Cow, Faust, but also to Fairports, John Martyn, and Nick Drake (as well as a load of American stuff from the Velvets to AACM whose presence doesn't make itself quite so apparent here!). I'm not a nostalgist, but as I keep returning to that era in my listening, so too I wanted to put my own spin on that peculiar time in English music. Looking back it seems incredible that music could have advanced so quickly in so short a space of time. I mean, just how many years did it take to get from Rubber Soul to Softs 4? Not many! By using the acoustics and other folk sounds alongside the jazz and electroacoustic elements here I've tried to recreate that mix of ideas and the wildly optimistic feeling of that time, that music could make absolutely anything possible; and if I've managed to capture even a small trace of that delicious "Witchseason" feeling, then I'll be happy. That's for you to judge. I don't care that the intention is naïve, either, what matters is the emotional centre of the sound.


"Angel words" is based on a riff which Ben recorded for me, and which we've played live a few times since. Why does Ben play so loud? Because he wants to! Because he wants to! The saxophone part is through-composed. Ben and I have worked together since I guested with his hardcore group Bleeding Principle ("get that fucking beatnik off stage"), and Carl Davies at Syborg did a great job in capturing this maximum volume playing onto tape. "The Eclipse farm heresies" has more complex electronics than some of the other pieces, and features Derek Saw reinvented as cornettist since his Hornweb days. Simon plays a written line in canon with a midi-gated filter at the beginning, and improvises later. I digress, but this track for me typifies a work method which I find very close to pure improvisation: that is, new music technology is full of inherent uncertainties which force you to be spontaneous, because it is often impossible to exactly recreate something you've just done. On this composition, I love the "zither" effect of the piano under Derek's cornet, but it's gone now and I've no idea how it happened (possibly something to do with slowing the midi data down so much that its one event at a time characteristic started to show. Now that's improvisation! "Beautiful city on the hill" exploits chance procedures, with a previously recorded organ solo laid onto the composition for 2 acoustic guitars. Special mention to Tim Cole here, getting the feeling just right. And finally I play my first instrument, the recorder, on disk. " A Dream of broken and floating doors" lets Charlie and I dig into our AACM bag, something we don't get much chance to do these days. The percussion combines several highly processed improvisations from Gino's fine listening and sampling CD "Singular Pleasures". I've always wanted to cover "Horn", in fact an arrangement was first planned but never executed in the late 80s for Hornweb. So at last I get to play this little tune. Note that Ben doesn't actually play any notes on this, he's just a ghostly presence. Also, of course, good to see Drake getting some wider acclaim at last, albeit 25 years too late to be any good to him. Ben also features, processed to death, on "Death-runes, death-rumours, ruins, rains of death". This piece combines Ben's improvisation from the same session as track 1 with a composed organ part which was originally intended to be part of a longer work for solo organ, but which found a home here instead. The title is taken from John Cowper Powys' novel "A Glastonbury Romance", a line from a fictional poem by one of the characters, Edward Atheling, a young man who could be said to take himself a tad too seriously. Hmmm. The novel ends of course with a catastrophic flood, which appeals to the Discus aesthetic. I'm not one for programmatic music, but here I tried to imagine how someone who'd never seen a structure larger than a single storey hovel might feel upon encountering a gothic cathedral for the first time. Charlie said that it sounded as if the place was being demolished while he stood inside it, but I was more after the majesty of the experience. After "Chemistry lock" (I wanted to contact Ratledge for a solo on this, but found the idea too awesome to contemplate) (NB Mick's fine bassoon solo, and just what is that tune he quotes at the beginning? And how many other players have got down on this instrument?, (not that getting down is a particular qualification for being on one of my records)) the last three tracks pick up the story from the sleevenotes (the full text covering all ten tracks will appear on the website in due course). The title (almost) track features Sedayne's crwth (a bowed harp) and soloists (pilgrims arriving in turn) set against three simple synth ideas. This time the acoustics appear in several guises, first triple tracked abstraction, then in real time, then sampled and played in on the keyboard. Again, masterful work from Derek here, playing in a way which is in danger of becoming a lost art. "River followers" is dedicated to ND, and flows from formal emptiness to anger, to calm, to some kind of resolution. And finally an escape to the sea at night, and the sound of boats, "Harbour town online".


This is the full text for the story, part of which is included in the CD booklet.


Angel words
Perhaps it's possible to take the whole of your life and play it all back at the same time, images and volume surrounding you, and with those words you want to remember most barely whispered, but still coming through. Alarm clock starts a grey storm day. Just past dawn and time for us to begin. No cars anywhere, everyone walking, including us, struggling with bags and instruments.


The eclipse farm heresies
From the high road you looked down the field, at the bottom of which there were a few miserable buildings grouped around the yard. No sign of any productive work being done. They're all inside with the curtains drawn, thinking it through again and again. I grew up there, she said. As we moved on, a gap opened in the thick clouds, and Derek came from behind the sun to play a solo on this song.


Beautiful city on the hill
Like a picture in a children's story book, there seemed too few buildings to make a complete city. The light was incredibly concentrated into one focus, and was obviously not moving at all. It's a vision of where we could be.


A dream of broken and floating doors
Stopped for the first night - we never thought it would be so far. Sleep came like anaesthetic, but not enough to block out the repetition. You wake up in the middle of the night with your thoughts full of that stupid pattern. People seemed to be moving around all the time in the adjoining rooms, slamming doors, laughing. I guess they're just having fun, nothing wrong with that. Sound objects in our dreams, also shoes, clowns, while the real band in the dancehall below circled round the centre of the sound. We should refuse to pay the bill.


Horn
Nick, how did you manage to make so much out of that handful of notes? I asked as we checked out. He was sitting in the lobby; guitar and one small travelling bag. Just looked at me as if I wasn't there. It was such a strange coincidence seeing him that morning, because we were working on one of his tunes for this record. Saw how much stuff we were carrying, then he smiled.


Death-runes, death-rumours, ruins, rains of death
We should never have begun this journey, it's brought us only bad luck. We were in the studio, about half way along the road, and we knew that soon we'd see the cathedral. In those days, it would have been the largest man-made object that anyone saw, if you ever got to go there. The whole room was shaking. Why does Ben have to play so loud? Because he wants to. It doesn't matter, it won't sound like that after I've put it through the filters. It's like walking directly into the rain, music just made from all the things you don't like. Waveforms like an ancient language onscreen.


Chemistry lock
One last chance to live in the present, and even then you can't escape the nostalgia. Stopped again for the night, different place this time. Mike, Elton, Hugh and Robert in the bar, nursing pints, looking pretty fed up with the gig.


Winter pilgrims arriving
At last it looks like we're going to get some peace. An amazing scene as we walked in, pilgrims arriving from all over in various stages of exhaustion. It's late, nine or so, and the monks are happily tending to the newcomers. And then, the most amazing singing I've ever heard, a confident and joyful tenor voice moving toward us, the choir more distant, possibly not even singing the same music. Fires everywhere in the courtyard, groups of people resting, eating, laughing, moving off in groups to prayer. Apart from the crwth, our instruments on this haven't even been invented yet.


River followers (for Nick Drake)
One way points inland, back the way we came. It's early morning, we've stayed as long as we can, days, and others are arriving now. Time to move on, but we need a new idea. Then an inspiration. Simply took the diaries, tore out all the pages one by one, threw them in the water.


Harbour town online
We should have gone home, but we just carried on down to the sea. These cottages looked as old as where we'd been, but there's electricity, phones, even a little shop with new PCs in the window. I know we'll be fine here, but I don't think that I have any tunes left now. Good luck with your music journey.

Performers

Martin Archer - synthesizers, woodwind, violectronics

Benjamin Bartholomew - guitars

Tim Cole - guitars

Derek Saw - cornet

Simon H. Fell - double bass

Charlie Collins - flute, sampling, producer

Gino Robair - percussion

James Archer - amplified objects

Mick Beck - bassoon

Sedayne - crwth



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This CD is my first in my own name since 1997's piano-based "88 Enemies", and is the first on Discus since the 1998 collaboration with Simon H Fell "Pure Water Construction". It follows the pattern of my previous "core music" release "Ghost lily cascade" (1996) by using a small group of players who are drawn on in different combinations for each piece.


My feeling as I was making the record throughout 1999 was that it represented a change in emphasis for me. Since I stopped playing live and having a real group at the beginning of the 1990s, all of my subsequent studio work had tended to revolve round the collaging of my own and other players improvisations, made at different times and different locations, into composed structures. I think this method was pretty well worked through by the time Simon and I finished "Pure Water Construction", and it was also a method which was becoming pretty commonly used and therefore didn't feel as new and exciting to me as it previously had. So on this CD the musicians were for the most part aware of the context into which their playing was going, and were able to hear the parts which were already laid down. This involved me in telling people what to do more than usual, which in turn lead me to notate some elements of almost every track, somewhat to my surprise, this being a chore which I'd previously consigned to history. Also the music has taken a more rhythmic and tonal (at least in some places) direction than most of my previous stuff, probably as a consequence of it being more guitar driven. My first idea for this record was that a pair of acoustic guitars should keep appearing throughout. Listening back, my own electronic sounds are pared right back - piano and organ sounds are dominant. Oh, and I learned to play clarinet and got interested in the saxophone again.


Emotionally and sonically this record is deliberately located in the early 70s, the time when I was learning about music by listening not only to Miles, Softs, Henry Cow, Faust, but also to Fairports, John Martyn, and Nick Drake (as well as a load of American stuff from the Velvets to AACM whose presence doesn't make itself quite so apparent here!). I'm not a nostalgist, but as I keep returning to that era in my listening, so too I wanted to put my own spin on that peculiar time in English music. Looking back it seems incredible that music could have advanced so quickly in so short a space of time. I mean, just how many years did it take to get from Rubber Soul to Softs 4? Not many! By using the acoustics and other folk sounds alongside the jazz and electroacoustic elements here I've tried to recreate that mix of ideas and the wildly optimistic feeling of that time, that music could make absolutely anything possible; and if I've managed to capture even a small trace of that delicious "Witchseason" feeling, then I'll be happy. That's for you to judge. I don't care that the intention is naïve, either, what matters is the emotional centre of the sound.


"Angel words" is based on a riff which Ben recorded for me, and which we've played live a few times since. Why does Ben play so loud? Because he wants to! Because he wants to! The saxophone part is through-composed. Ben and I have worked together since I guested with his hardcore group Bleeding Principle ("get that fucking beatnik off stage"), and Carl Davies at Syborg did a great job in capturing this maximum volume playing onto tape. "The Eclipse farm heresies" has more complex electronics than some of the other pieces, and features Derek Saw reinvented as cornettist since his Hornweb days. Simon plays a written line in canon with a midi-gated filter at the beginning, and improvises later. I digress, but this track for me typifies a work method which I find very close to pure improvisation: that is, new music technology is full of inherent uncertainties which force you to be spontaneous, because it is often impossible to exactly recreate something you've just done. On this composition, I love the "zither" effect of the piano under Derek's cornet, but it's gone now and I've no idea how it happened (possibly something to do with slowing the midi data down so much that its one event at a time characteristic started to show. Now that's improvisation! "Beautiful city on the hill" exploits chance procedures, with a previously recorded organ solo laid onto the composition for 2 acoustic guitars. Special mention to Tim Cole here, getting the feeling just right. And finally I play my first instrument, the recorder, on disk. " A Dream of broken and floating doors" lets Charlie and I dig into our AACM bag, something we don't get much chance to do these days. The percussion combines several highly processed improvisations from Gino's fine listening and sampling CD "Singular Pleasures". I've always wanted to cover "Horn", in fact an arrangement was first planned but never executed in the late 80s for Hornweb. So at last I get to play this little tune. Note that Ben doesn't actually play any notes on this, he's just a ghostly presence. Also, of course, good to see Drake getting some wider acclaim at last, albeit 25 years too late to be any good to him. Ben also features, processed to death, on "Death-runes, death-rumours, ruins, rains of death". This piece combines Ben's improvisation from the same session as track 1 with a composed organ part which was originally intended to be part of a longer work for solo organ, but which found a home here instead. The title is taken from John Cowper Powys' novel "A Glastonbury Romance", a line from a fictional poem by one of the characters, Edward Atheling, a young man who could be said to take himself a tad too seriously. Hmmm. The novel ends of course with a catastrophic flood, which appeals to the Discus aesthetic. I'm not one for programmatic music, but here I tried to imagine how someone who'd never seen a structure larger than a single storey hovel might feel upon encountering a gothic cathedral for the first time. Charlie said that it sounded as if the place was being demolished while he stood inside it, but I was more after the majesty of the experience. After "Chemistry lock" (I wanted to contact Ratledge for a solo on this, but found the idea too awesome to contemplate) (NB Mick's fine bassoon solo, and just what is that tune he quotes at the beginning? And how many other players have got down on this instrument?, (not that getting down is a particular qualification for being on one of my records)) the last three tracks pick up the story from the sleevenotes (the full text covering all ten tracks will appear on the website in due course). The title (almost) track features Sedayne's crwth (a bowed harp) and soloists (pilgrims arriving in turn) set against three simple synth ideas. This time the acoustics appear in several guises, first triple tracked abstraction, then in real time, then sampled and played in on the keyboard. Again, masterful work from Derek here, playing in a way which is in danger of becoming a lost art. "River followers" is dedicated to ND, and flows from formal emptiness to anger, to calm, to some kind of resolution. And finally an escape to the sea at night, and the sound of boats, "Harbour town online".


This is the full text for the story, part of which is included in the CD booklet.


Angel words
Perhaps it's possible to take the whole of your life and play it all back at the same time, images and volume surrounding you, and with those words you want to remember most barely whispered, but still coming through. Alarm clock starts a grey storm day. Just past dawn and time for us to begin. No cars anywhere, everyone walking, including us, struggling with bags and instruments.


The eclipse farm heresies
From the high road you looked down the field, at the bottom of which there were a few miserable buildings grouped around the yard. No sign of any productive work being done. They're all inside with the curtains drawn, thinking it through again and again. I grew up there, she said. As we moved on, a gap opened in the thick clouds, and Derek came from behind the sun to play a solo on this song.


Beautiful city on the hill
Like a picture in a children's story book, there seemed too few buildings to make a complete city. The light was incredibly concentrated into one focus, and was obviously not moving at all. It's a vision of where we could be.


A dream of broken and floating doors
Stopped for the first night - we never thought it would be so far. Sleep came like anaesthetic, but not enough to block out the repetition. You wake up in the middle of the night with your thoughts full of that stupid pattern. People seemed to be moving around all the time in the adjoining rooms, slamming doors, laughing. I guess they're just having fun, nothing wrong with that. Sound objects in our dreams, also shoes, clowns, while the real band in the dancehall below circled round the centre of the sound. We should refuse to pay the bill.


Horn
Nick, how did you manage to make so much out of that handful of notes? I asked as we checked out. He was sitting in the lobby; guitar and one small travelling bag. Just looked at me as if I wasn't there. It was such a strange coincidence seeing him that morning, because we were working on one of his tunes for this record. Saw how much stuff we were carrying, then he smiled.


Death-runes, death-rumours, ruins, rains of death
We should never have begun this journey, it's brought us only bad luck. We were in the studio, about half way along the road, and we knew that soon we'd see the cathedral. In those days, it would have been the largest man-made object that anyone saw, if you ever got to go there. The whole room was shaking. Why does Ben have to play so loud? Because he wants to. It doesn't matter, it won't sound like that after I've put it through the filters. It's like walking directly into the rain, music just made from all the things you don't like. Waveforms like an ancient language onscreen.


Chemistry lock
One last chance to live in the present, and even then you can't escape the nostalgia. Stopped again for the night, different place this time. Mike, Elton, Hugh and Robert in the bar, nursing pints, looking pretty fed up with the gig.


Winter pilgrims arriving
At last it looks like we're going to get some peace. An amazing scene as we walked in, pilgrims arriving from all over in various stages of exhaustion. It's late, nine or so, and the monks are happily tending to the newcomers. And then, the most amazing singing I've ever heard, a confident and joyful tenor voice moving toward us, the choir more distant, possibly not even singing the same music. Fires everywhere in the courtyard, groups of people resting, eating, laughing, moving off in groups to prayer. Apart from the crwth, our instruments on this haven't even been invented yet.


River followers (for Nick Drake)
One way points inland, back the way we came. It's early morning, we've stayed as long as we can, days, and others are arriving now. Time to move on, but we need a new idea. Then an inspiration. Simply took the diaries, tore out all the pages one by one, threw them in the water.


Harbour town online
We should have gone home, but we just carried on down to the sea. These cottages looked as old as where we'd been, but there's electricity, phones, even a little shop with new PCs in the window. I know we'll be fine here, but I don't think that I have any tunes left now. Good luck with your music journey.

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Martin Archer - synthesizers, woodwind, violectronics

Benjamin Bartholomew - guitars

Tim Cole - guitars

Derek Saw - cornet

Simon H. Fell - double bass

Charlie Collins - flute, sampling, producer

Gino Robair - percussion

James Archer - amplified objects

Mick Beck - bassoon

Sedayne - crwth

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Martin Archer - synthesizers, woodwind, violectronics

Benjamin Bartholomew - guitars

Tim Cole - guitars

Derek Saw - cornet

Simon H. Fell - double bass

Charlie Collins - flute, sampling, producer

Gino Robair - percussion

James Archer - amplified objects

Mick Beck - bassoon

Sedayne - crwth

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"Fascinating … defies categorisation … an internal coherence which makes it compulsive listening … an art-rock mini-universe" – Joe Cushley, Mojo

 

"Archer’s nonconformist musical approach somehow echoes the more conventional Englishness of Soft Machine and Nick Drake without recourse to imitataion, flattery or recognisable tunes. Mixing pastoral acoustic sounds with electronic flourishes, the album could be seen as an answer to Gastre del Sol’s like-minded appropriation of classic Americana, or simply enjoyed as one of the most beautiful examples of this often intimidating genre" – Stewart Lee, Sunday Times

 

"Anyone at all familiar with Archer's previous work on his Discus label would never accuse him of making things easy for the listener. Using what amounts to a private musical language, Archer usually pre-records contributions from collaborators, and then combines them using chance techniques and various other compositional strategies, sometimes requiring musicians (including himself) to interact with pre-recorded bits which he then stitches together -- all of which creates a strange, pervasive dislocation in Archer's music, as the listener tries to sort out intention from accident (usually without much success), and gradually begins to hear the accidents as part of a larger universe of sound. In fact, Archer's use of stochastic/aleatory principles as part of the compositional process may be one of the most persuasive arguments for John Cage that I've ever heard.

 

However, Archer has another side, which is reflected his confessed fondness for early 70's pop and jazz music -- everything from Miles Davis to Fairport Convention, Soft Machine, Faust and John Martyn. Winter Pilgrim Arriving is intended as an emotional recreation of that magical musical time, when all things (musically and otherwise) seemed possible. Of course, Archer is far too sophisticated to wear his musical influences on his sleeve, and he has come up with something more strange and complex than any music which a listener might have heard in the 70's. But the proper spirit is there, and with apologies to Archer's gallant little independent label, this recording could easily be an ECM release -- and a top ECM release at that. It has all the classic ECM ingredients -- it's superbly recorded, genre-bending, hauntingly melodic, sometimes ethereal and other-worldly, and sometimes just plain weird. Even when he's on his best sonic behavior, i.e., trying to make "regular" music, Archer is very fond of odd timbres and sound combinations, and he opens this CD playing a reedy, wistful soprano sax melody over crunchy, over-driven electric guitar which sounds a lot like an elephant stumbling through a huge pile of broken glass. Other pieces feature the excellent muted cornet of Derek Saw, (emulating the expressive mid-period Miles Davis of Filles de Kilimanjaro and In a Silent Way), and the lyrical Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar of Tim Cole. The aptly named "Death-runes, death rumours, ruins, rains of death" combines the brazen clanging of bells, more of the crunchy (and also howling) guitar, a sepulchral cathedral organ and ultimately a forlorn Medieval-sounding recorder. This piece demonstrates a total mastery of the Gothic genre, and it's clear that Archer could stake a claim as a Goth/Trance heavyweight if he had a notion (which I'm sure he doesn't). The next piece, "Chemistry lock," is intended as a homage to Soft Machine, and it switches gears with some fine and funky electronic drumming, plus trumpet, bassoon, and Archer's unique keyboard treatments, which include a Fender Rhodes emulation (except more liquid, almost like birdsong) and a neat, swoopy Moog sound. With characteristic modesty, Archer writes in his press release that he contemplated calling Mike Rattledge, the Softs' original keyboardist, but "found the idea too awesome to contemplate." Well, I'm a Rattledge and Soft Machine fan myself, but I'll put Archer's tribute, and his keyboard work on the tribute, up against anything in the Softs' catalogue. It's that cool.

 

I could ramble on about Archer's use of unusual instruments (bassoon, bowed crwth), his juxtapositions of timbres (acoustic guitar, clarinet, recorder, electronic rumbles and roars), and the way his music on this CD (and particularly the longer pieces, such as the title track and "River followers") represents the aural equivalent of strolling through some exotic, alien country, where everything is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, with delightful (and sometimes slightly unnerving) surprises emerging around every bend. But I'll end simply by urging everyone who reads this review to hear from themselves. Winter Pilgrim Arriving already has my vote for one of the richest and most profound recordings of the year 2000." – Bill Tilland, Motion

 

"I love what Martin Archer does. Year after year he manages to surprise me. This is one of his most accomplished works. Daring, demanding and highly rewarding" - Francois Couture, L'Inentendu.

 

Virtually everything in the label's small catalogue is excellent, including the documentation of his own work such as Ghost Lily Cascade, alongside which this release clearly sits.

 

Here, as on that disc and the equally fine Pure Water Construction, Archer works with a loose collection of musicians, whose improvisations are sampled and then reorganised into what Archer loosely refers to as compositions. The sound-world is fantastically rich and otherworldly, like a dream of music on another planet; the acoustics are all wrong, instrumentation comes and goes, but the whole usually sounds natural. It's just like listening to musicians playing together with a mike in front of them, albeit musicians with vary numbers of limbs playing instruments made from unknown materials.

 

One thing which gives this CD it's particular quality is a rather surprising affiliation with English folk music. That's dangerous in the wrong hands, leading to the risible kind of wimsy associated with prog-folk and the Cambridge School. Clearly this is something Archer has some fondness for, but his relocation of Bert Jansch (or whoever) into outer space is touching as well as surreal, poignant beyond any accusation of novelty.

 

As if slightly concerned about accusations of "going soft" or (heaven forfend) "selling out", Archer tends to place these folksy passages in an ambiance of thunderous noise, as if his imaginary guitarists, recordists and Ulelian pipers (imitated by Archer's phenomenally accomplished sopranino) were stranded on some nightmarish hard shoulder in a J G Ballard short story.

 

This is so zeitgeisty it's scary, and Archer really ought to be better known on the other side of the Atlantic, where chancers abound doing this sort of thing with little real musical commitment, often in search of witty postmodern gags or a sort of ersatz beat sensibility. This is an ultra-contemporary version of avant folk which can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Eugene Chadbourne's reimagining of hilbilly music in its lack of respect for any dogma, be it from the world of folk, improv or the electroacoustic avant garde. In its sense of unified diversity and its ever-changing atmospherics, one might also mention Zorn's film music: it really is that good, and it's also distinctively English and completely unique." - Richard Cochrane, Musings 

 

 

"Another fine release from a genuine music explorer" – Martin Lilleker, Sheffield Telegraph

 

"Winter Pilgrim Arriving" expresses through wide and surprising instrumentations evocative atmospheres that possess harmony and eclecticism combining their own particularities in a spontaneous flow of synthetic and organic sounds, rhythms, textures and sensibility. - Jean-Francois Fecteau, Le Vestibule.

 

"The best moments have a pastoral feel, with sopranino sax unwinding lazily over subtle electronics."- Dave Keenan, Wire.

 

"It transports the adventurous listener." – Jazz Weekly

 

"Anybody familiar with his work oughtta realise by now not to expect anything in particular, really. Having already defiled a jazz asceticism with a salubrious line in electronics, avant – raking and screwball noise, Archer’s approach to sonic architecture is fundamentally governed by a freedom suspended between gut instinct and academia….. Beginning, briefly, like a super – charged noise – riff monster before coursing foggier areas peppered with ebony sax swirls, Tim Buckley – ish strumming, recorders, percussion, the kinda samples that wouldn’t be turned away by Oval, etc….. there’s much to tug away at yr brain stem here. Never crossing the wrong side of such fitful bridge building to worlds of his own design, Archer’s invitation is etched more downright appealingly than ever." – Richo Johnson, Adverse Effect. 

 

"Some remarkable couplings of synth and Faheyesque guitar ..... successfully meshes 70s synthesizing with 90s free improv" - Chris Atton, Rubberneck

 

"This might be Archer's most accessible record, with moments of great simplicity, but also daring passages, resulting in something both demanding and highly rewarding" - AMG

"Parts of this album are really good, creative and explorative especially in the use of acoustic instruments against electronics" - Alan Freeman, Audion

 

"Another stunning record of thoroughly contemporary music. Fans of the downtown Chicago scene, particularly Gastr Del Sol, will love this delicate, free music. Archer creates an intimate feel with sparse arrangements and gentle waves of distortion. Acoustic instruments and electronics are weaved together to produce pieces that are like a long journey; all preparation and anticipation. It's only when the CD stops spinning that you realise what a trip you've had." - Joe Murray, Billy Liar

 

"Archer speaks of music from a certain period, the work of the Canterbury school of progressive rock, and the concomitant folk-rock sounds that were coming out of England during the same period, and how it conjured for him the feeling that music could be / do anything. These compositions give me a similar feeling, but they sound completely modern. Unlike a lot of other constructions of this type that I've heard, the patchwork and various graftings don't come across as such. This music sounds like it all happened live, made by an army of sympatico musicians with an arsenal of equipment and a communal working approach. The sounds themselves are quite disparate, but they are put together in such a way as to make them work magically. I'm impressed as hell by these little assemblages, and each time I listen the amount of detail unfolds in a new way for me." - Jeph Jerman - The Improvisor

 

 

"The year 2000 saw the release of this incredible album.  If there are those of you out there who 'have a problem' trying to get your head around 'Improv Music', then this album could be the one which might make things easier! Archer has developed a great technique where he records various people in different locations, sometimes together, sometimes solo. Some snippets are written and some are totally improvised. He then deftly weaves together all the raw materials to produce finished tracks which can start as delicate acoustic passages whilst being accompanied by ominous blasts of electricity. It can veer from frightening intensity to lush ambience all in a matter of minutes, seconds even. A rich and strong tapestry, which is at times astonishing. I wouldn't say it's an album to put on 'in the background' or to pop into your CD player when a few friends come around to visit, but one which, if you've got time to spare, just listen to whilst slunked into your chair, clamp your headphones on and get taken away for a while!


Archer was fascinated at all the different musics that were coming into view in the early 1970s, from the directions of Miles Davis to the various dark electronic escapades of certain collectives in deepest germany, he would also be captivated by the sound of witch-season acoustic guitars in the various twilight folk circles.

So many different ingredients, you could make anything happen. All these influences served as the inspiration for many of his Discus releases, but in particular, it's this album that realises it most.


"Angel Words"- starts with Ben Bartholomew's visceral guitar poundings while Archer's Soprano Sax sends out a shining clarion call. A very short opening track at just over two minutes, but kicks the gates open to all possibilities. "The Eclipse Farm Heresies"- develops into Acoustic Piano and Double Bass being surrounded by irritable sheets of Synth until Derek Saw's Cornet comes in to try and sort out the fuss. "Beautiful City On The Hill"- This starts with a cavernous breath of electronics, but just when you think you are entering an industrial wasteland, Bartholomew and Cole's Acoustic rich pickings show that it's just a summer storm on your favourite spot in the country.


"A Dream Of Broken and Floating Doors"- has some sparse yet playful muted Cornet, Flute and clattering Percussion, further offset by quick and minute scrapes and tweaks which sometimes has you wondering which instrument is on show. "Horn" is Archer's adaption of the Nick Drake composition with nicely paced ah-Guitar and frail Sax and somehow captures perfectly, the author's lost soul.
"Death-Runes, Death-Rumours, Ruins, Rains Of Death" Sinister tubular Synths, malfunctioned Guitars and god-knows-what Samples all glue together with further electronic hums which give out to the sound of a Recorder (!) which comes in like a shaft of sunlight in a darkened well. But this isn't a 'difficult' music, just very fascinating!


"Chemistry Lock (Mike, Elton, Hugh, Robert)" Well, as any canterbury cad will tell you, by the title alone, this tip's a hat to Soft Machine (circa "4" and "5"). The Drum programming is fantastic, although it doesn't sound as if it could be pulled off- believe me it does, this is the spirit of the Softs through a crisp millenium filter. Mick Beck's Bassoon playing starts to give this track real impetus, with Archer coming in later doing a perfect homage to Mike Ratlege. Obviously, this track was more formulated than the others on this recording and to say it captures the feel of that era of Soft Machine is an understatement, but it also shows another side to the collective players. It must be said also, that the production skills of Charlie Collins (who some people may remember as the jewel in the original Clock DVA crown), are one fine example of this man's many talents. I think the track could have gone on further than it's seven or so minutes though! 


The Title Track features the medieval welsh instrument, the Crwth, a sort of bowed Lyre cum Viola which ushers in a very foreboding atmosphere and sounds great set against Saw's Cornet. Blotches of solo melodic Synth then take the track to a different arena, especially when the Acoustic Guitars come in, until Archer's Sax and frosted electronics, ripple under all the disjointed pulses and flourishing sounds.

 
"River Followers (for Nick Drake)" Lush melodies, half and fully formed, dark washes of Synths and crazy ripped static Samples, eventually merge to some fading folk rumbles. As with every track on this album and other Discus releases, all the elements so different, yet all succumb to a strange and unbelievable whole. "Harbour Town Online" closes the album and is a short and very becalmed end to a very rich journey.
The Hidden Sound of Sheffield. It could open a whole new world for some people." - Jim Tones

 

 

He's managed to toe that line bretween musicality and the abstract, which is where the real interesting work lays. It's in this process of dismantling and re-fusing that sometimes the magic occurs. There can be a resonance of human spirit that lays within sound. Archer's found it. - Progress Report

 

 

Martin Archer ist Klangbastler. Aus akustischen und elektronischen Instrumentalklängen baut er Tonbilder oder Tongebilde, die sich einer klaren stilistischen Einordnung entziehen. Seit Mitte der 90er befasst er sich damit, nachdem er sich verstärkt elektronischen Klängen zugewandt hat. Das erste Ergebnis dieses elektro-akustischen Werkens war das 1996 erschienene Solo-Album "Ghost lily cascade". Auf dem 2000 veröffentlichten "Winter Pilgrim Arriving" hatte er die Technik perfektioniert. Akustisches (Rohrblattinstrumente, Flöten. Akustikgitarren, Kornett, Kontrabass, Piano, Perkussives) trifft hier auf Elektronisches, elektronisch verstärkte Instrumente bzw. elektronische Tongeneratoren (E-Gitarre, Keyboards, Synthesizer) und allerlei prozessierten Klang (der teilweise wieder akustische Ursprünge haben kann). Zusammengebastelt, übereinander geschichtet, dicht vermengt und bearbeitet hat die Tongebilde Archer im Alleingang, unter Verwendung diverser Klangerzeuger und Instrumentalspuren, die er selbst erzeugt hat, oder um die er verschiedene Gastmusiker gebeten hat. Mitunter (in der Regel) wussten diese Mitmusiker wohl gar nicht, wie und wo ihr Beitrag auf dem fertigen Produkt erscheinen wird. Elektronik vermengt mit Instrumentalklang also. Krach trifft auf Tröten (wie z.B. in der bizarren Einleitungsnummer, in der tumultöses E-Gitarrenlärmen mit lyrischen Rohrblattlinien verziert wird), dröhnende Klangwände auf akustisches Gitarrengeschrammel, elektronisches Gewaber auf dezente Blockflötenlinien, industrieller Lärm auf fast sakrales Keyboardgeorgel oder jazzige Kornetteinlagen auf verschrobene Elektronikrhythmen, gewaltiges Dröhnen bzw. holprige Perkussion und allerlei wirres Elektronikfiepen und -zischen. Das Ergebnis ist ein ausgesprochen abwechslungsreiches und dichtes Klanggemenge, bizarr, lärmend, schräg, klangvoll, elegant, jazzig, mächtig, verspielt, farbig, wirr und zerbrechlich zugleich, versehen mit einigen Canterbury-Spuren (siehe auch Track 7), seltsamen Folkbezügen (z.B. Track 5 - eine Art Nick-Drak-Cover), kaum zu erkennenden Rockfragmenten und Ausflügen in kosmische Elektronikgefilde. "Winter Pilgrim Arriving" ist eine wahrlich progressive Klangreise in Soundräume jenseits von Jazz, Rock und Klassik, oder in eine jenseitige Schnittmenge daraus. Wer komplexe, dabei aber doch erstaunlich atmosphärische und angenehm zu hörende elektroakustische Tonexperimente schätzt, der sollte dieses beeindruckende Album auf keinen Fall verpassen! - Achim Breiling, BABYBLAUE

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"Fascinating … defies categorisation … an internal coherence which makes it compulsive listening … an art-rock mini-universe" – Joe Cushley, Mojo

 

"Archer’s nonconformist musical approach somehow echoes the more conventional Englishness of Soft Machine and Nick Drake without recourse to imitataion, flattery or recognisable tunes. Mixing pastoral acoustic sounds with electronic flourishes, the album could be seen as an answer to Gastre del Sol’s like-minded appropriation of classic Americana, or simply enjoyed as one of the most beautiful examples of this often intimidating genre" – Stewart Lee, Sunday Times

 

"Anyone at all familiar with Archer's previous work on his Discus label would never accuse him of making things easy for the listener. Using what amounts to a private musical language, Archer usually pre-records contributions from collaborators, and then combines them using chance techniques and various other compositional strategies, sometimes requiring musicians (including himself) to interact with pre-recorded bits which he then stitches together -- all of which creates a strange, pervasive dislocation in Archer's music, as the listener tries to sort out intention from accident (usually without much success), and gradually begins to hear the accidents as part of a larger universe of sound. In fact, Archer's use of stochastic/aleatory principles as part of the compositional process may be one of the most persuasive arguments for John Cage that I've ever heard.

 

However, Archer has another side, which is reflected his confessed fondness for early 70's pop and jazz music -- everything from Miles Davis to Fairport Convention, Soft Machine, Faust and John Martyn. Winter Pilgrim Arriving is intended as an emotional recreation of that magical musical time, when all things (musically and otherwise) seemed possible. Of course, Archer is far too sophisticated to wear his musical influences on his sleeve, and he has come up with something more strange and complex than any music which a listener might have heard in the 70's. But the proper spirit is there, and with apologies to Archer's gallant little independent label, this recording could easily be an ECM release -- and a top ECM release at that. It has all the classic ECM ingredients -- it's superbly recorded, genre-bending, hauntingly melodic, sometimes ethereal and other-worldly, and sometimes just plain weird. Even when he's on his best sonic behavior, i.e., trying to make "regular" music, Archer is very fond of odd timbres and sound combinations, and he opens this CD playing a reedy, wistful soprano sax melody over crunchy, over-driven electric guitar which sounds a lot like an elephant stumbling through a huge pile of broken glass. Other pieces feature the excellent muted cornet of Derek Saw, (emulating the expressive mid-period Miles Davis of Filles de Kilimanjaro and In a Silent Way), and the lyrical Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar of Tim Cole. The aptly named "Death-runes, death rumours, ruins, rains of death" combines the brazen clanging of bells, more of the crunchy (and also howling) guitar, a sepulchral cathedral organ and ultimately a forlorn Medieval-sounding recorder. This piece demonstrates a total mastery of the Gothic genre, and it's clear that Archer could stake a claim as a Goth/Trance heavyweight if he had a notion (which I'm sure he doesn't). The next piece, "Chemistry lock," is intended as a homage to Soft Machine, and it switches gears with some fine and funky electronic drumming, plus trumpet, bassoon, and Archer's unique keyboard treatments, which include a Fender Rhodes emulation (except more liquid, almost like birdsong) and a neat, swoopy Moog sound. With characteristic modesty, Archer writes in his press release that he contemplated calling Mike Rattledge, the Softs' original keyboardist, but "found the idea too awesome to contemplate." Well, I'm a Rattledge and Soft Machine fan myself, but I'll put Archer's tribute, and his keyboard work on the tribute, up against anything in the Softs' catalogue. It's that cool.

 

I could ramble on about Archer's use of unusual instruments (bassoon, bowed crwth), his juxtapositions of timbres (acoustic guitar, clarinet, recorder, electronic rumbles and roars), and the way his music on this CD (and particularly the longer pieces, such as the title track and "River followers") represents the aural equivalent of strolling through some exotic, alien country, where everything is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, with delightful (and sometimes slightly unnerving) surprises emerging around every bend. But I'll end simply by urging everyone who reads this review to hear from themselves. Winter Pilgrim Arriving already has my vote for one of the richest and most profound recordings of the year 2000." – Bill Tilland, Motion

 

"I love what Martin Archer does. Year after year he manages to surprise me. This is one of his most accomplished works. Daring, demanding and highly rewarding" - Francois Couture, L'Inentendu.

 

Virtually everything in the label's small catalogue is excellent, including the documentation of his own work such as Ghost Lily Cascade, alongside which this release clearly sits.

 

Here, as on that disc and the equally fine Pure Water Construction, Archer works with a loose collection of musicians, whose improvisations are sampled and then reorganised into what Archer loosely refers to as compositions. The sound-world is fantastically rich and otherworldly, like a dream of music on another planet; the acoustics are all wrong, instrumentation comes and goes, but the whole usually sounds natural. It's just like listening to musicians playing together with a mike in front of them, albeit musicians with vary numbers of limbs playing instruments made from unknown materials.

 

One thing which gives this CD it's particular quality is a rather surprising affiliation with English folk music. That's dangerous in the wrong hands, leading to the risible kind of wimsy associated with prog-folk and the Cambridge School. Clearly this is something Archer has some fondness for, but his relocation of Bert Jansch (or whoever) into outer space is touching as well as surreal, poignant beyond any accusation of novelty.

 

As if slightly concerned about accusations of "going soft" or (heaven forfend) "selling out", Archer tends to place these folksy passages in an ambiance of thunderous noise, as if his imaginary guitarists, recordists and Ulelian pipers (imitated by Archer's phenomenally accomplished sopranino) were stranded on some nightmarish hard shoulder in a J G Ballard short story.

 

This is so zeitgeisty it's scary, and Archer really ought to be better known on the other side of the Atlantic, where chancers abound doing this sort of thing with little real musical commitment, often in search of witty postmodern gags or a sort of ersatz beat sensibility. This is an ultra-contemporary version of avant folk which can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Eugene Chadbourne's reimagining of hilbilly music in its lack of respect for any dogma, be it from the world of folk, improv or the electroacoustic avant garde. In its sense of unified diversity and its ever-changing atmospherics, one might also mention Zorn's film music: it really is that good, and it's also distinctively English and completely unique." - Richard Cochrane, Musings 

 

 

"Another fine release from a genuine music explorer" – Martin Lilleker, Sheffield Telegraph

 

"Winter Pilgrim Arriving" expresses through wide and surprising instrumentations evocative atmospheres that possess harmony and eclecticism combining their own particularities in a spontaneous flow of synthetic and organic sounds, rhythms, textures and sensibility. - Jean-Francois Fecteau, Le Vestibule.

 

"The best moments have a pastoral feel, with sopranino sax unwinding lazily over subtle electronics."- Dave Keenan, Wire.

 

"It transports the adventurous listener." – Jazz Weekly

 

"Anybody familiar with his work oughtta realise by now not to expect anything in particular, really. Having already defiled a jazz asceticism with a salubrious line in electronics, avant – raking and screwball noise, Archer’s approach to sonic architecture is fundamentally governed by a freedom suspended between gut instinct and academia….. Beginning, briefly, like a super – charged noise – riff monster before coursing foggier areas peppered with ebony sax swirls, Tim Buckley – ish strumming, recorders, percussion, the kinda samples that wouldn’t be turned away by Oval, etc….. there’s much to tug away at yr brain stem here. Never crossing the wrong side of such fitful bridge building to worlds of his own design, Archer’s invitation is etched more downright appealingly than ever." – Richo Johnson, Adverse Effect. 

 

"Some remarkable couplings of synth and Faheyesque guitar ..... successfully meshes 70s synthesizing with 90s free improv" - Chris Atton, Rubberneck

 

"This might be Archer's most accessible record, with moments of great simplicity, but also daring passages, resulting in something both demanding and highly rewarding" - AMG

"Parts of this album are really good, creative and explorative especially in the use of acoustic instruments against electronics" - Alan Freeman, Audion

 

"Another stunning record of thoroughly contemporary music. Fans of the downtown Chicago scene, particularly Gastr Del Sol, will love this delicate, free music. Archer creates an intimate feel with sparse arrangements and gentle waves of distortion. Acoustic instruments and electronics are weaved together to produce pieces that are like a long journey; all preparation and anticipation. It's only when the CD stops spinning that you realise what a trip you've had." - Joe Murray, Billy Liar

 

"Archer speaks of music from a certain period, the work of the Canterbury school of progressive rock, and the concomitant folk-rock sounds that were coming out of England during the same period, and how it conjured for him the feeling that music could be / do anything. These compositions give me a similar feeling, but they sound completely modern. Unlike a lot of other constructions of this type that I've heard, the patchwork and various graftings don't come across as such. This music sounds like it all happened live, made by an army of sympatico musicians with an arsenal of equipment and a communal working approach. The sounds themselves are quite disparate, but they are put together in such a way as to make them work magically. I'm impressed as hell by these little assemblages, and each time I listen the amount of detail unfolds in a new way for me." - Jeph Jerman - The Improvisor

 

 

"The year 2000 saw the release of this incredible album.  If there are those of you out there who 'have a problem' trying to get your head around 'Improv Music', then this album could be the one which might make things easier! Archer has developed a great technique where he records various people in different locations, sometimes together, sometimes solo. Some snippets are written and some are totally improvised. He then deftly weaves together all the raw materials to produce finished tracks which can start as delicate acoustic passages whilst being accompanied by ominous blasts of electricity. It can veer from frightening intensity to lush ambience all in a matter of minutes, seconds even. A rich and strong tapestry, which is at times astonishing. I wouldn't say it's an album to put on 'in the background' or to pop into your CD player when a few friends come around to visit, but one which, if you've got time to spare, just listen to whilst slunked into your chair, clamp your headphones on and get taken away for a while!


Archer was fascinated at all the different musics that were coming into view in the early 1970s, from the directions of Miles Davis to the various dark electronic escapades of certain collectives in deepest germany, he would also be captivated by the sound of witch-season acoustic guitars in the various twilight folk circles.

So many different ingredients, you could make anything happen. All these influences served as the inspiration for many of his Discus releases, but in particular, it's this album that realises it most.


"Angel Words"- starts with Ben Bartholomew's visceral guitar poundings while Archer's Soprano Sax sends out a shining clarion call. A very short opening track at just over two minutes, but kicks the gates open to all possibilities. "The Eclipse Farm Heresies"- develops into Acoustic Piano and Double Bass being surrounded by irritable sheets of Synth until Derek Saw's Cornet comes in to try and sort out the fuss. "Beautiful City On The Hill"- This starts with a cavernous breath of electronics, but just when you think you are entering an industrial wasteland, Bartholomew and Cole's Acoustic rich pickings show that it's just a summer storm on your favourite spot in the country.


"A Dream Of Broken and Floating Doors"- has some sparse yet playful muted Cornet, Flute and clattering Percussion, further offset by quick and minute scrapes and tweaks which sometimes has you wondering which instrument is on show. "Horn" is Archer's adaption of the Nick Drake composition with nicely paced ah-Guitar and frail Sax and somehow captures perfectly, the author's lost soul.
"Death-Runes, Death-Rumours, Ruins, Rains Of Death" Sinister tubular Synths, malfunctioned Guitars and god-knows-what Samples all glue together with further electronic hums which give out to the sound of a Recorder (!) which comes in like a shaft of sunlight in a darkened well. But this isn't a 'difficult' music, just very fascinating!


"Chemistry Lock (Mike, Elton, Hugh, Robert)" Well, as any canterbury cad will tell you, by the title alone, this tip's a hat to Soft Machine (circa "4" and "5"). The Drum programming is fantastic, although it doesn't sound as if it could be pulled off- believe me it does, this is the spirit of the Softs through a crisp millenium filter. Mick Beck's Bassoon playing starts to give this track real impetus, with Archer coming in later doing a perfect homage to Mike Ratlege. Obviously, this track was more formulated than the others on this recording and to say it captures the feel of that era of Soft Machine is an understatement, but it also shows another side to the collective players. It must be said also, that the production skills of Charlie Collins (who some people may remember as the jewel in the original Clock DVA crown), are one fine example of this man's many talents. I think the track could have gone on further than it's seven or so minutes though! 


The Title Track features the medieval welsh instrument, the Crwth, a sort of bowed Lyre cum Viola which ushers in a very foreboding atmosphere and sounds great set against Saw's Cornet. Blotches of solo melodic Synth then take the track to a different arena, especially when the Acoustic Guitars come in, until Archer's Sax and frosted electronics, ripple under all the disjointed pulses and flourishing sounds.

 
"River Followers (for Nick Drake)" Lush melodies, half and fully formed, dark washes of Synths and crazy ripped static Samples, eventually merge to some fading folk rumbles. As with every track on this album and other Discus releases, all the elements so different, yet all succumb to a strange and unbelievable whole. "Harbour Town Online" closes the album and is a short and very becalmed end to a very rich journey.
The Hidden Sound of Sheffield. It could open a whole new world for some people." - Jim Tones

 

 

He's managed to toe that line bretween musicality and the abstract, which is where the real interesting work lays. It's in this process of dismantling and re-fusing that sometimes the magic occurs. There can be a resonance of human spirit that lays within sound. Archer's found it. - Progress Report

 

 

Martin Archer ist Klangbastler. Aus akustischen und elektronischen Instrumentalklängen baut er Tonbilder oder Tongebilde, die sich einer klaren stilistischen Einordnung entziehen. Seit Mitte der 90er befasst er sich damit, nachdem er sich verstärkt elektronischen Klängen zugewandt hat. Das erste Ergebnis dieses elektro-akustischen Werkens war das 1996 erschienene Solo-Album "Ghost lily cascade". Auf dem 2000 veröffentlichten "Winter Pilgrim Arriving" hatte er die Technik perfektioniert. Akustisches (Rohrblattinstrumente, Flöten. Akustikgitarren, Kornett, Kontrabass, Piano, Perkussives) trifft hier auf Elektronisches, elektronisch verstärkte Instrumente bzw. elektronische Tongeneratoren (E-Gitarre, Keyboards, Synthesizer) und allerlei prozessierten Klang (der teilweise wieder akustische Ursprünge haben kann). Zusammengebastelt, übereinander geschichtet, dicht vermengt und bearbeitet hat die Tongebilde Archer im Alleingang, unter Verwendung diverser Klangerzeuger und Instrumentalspuren, die er selbst erzeugt hat, oder um die er verschiedene Gastmusiker gebeten hat. Mitunter (in der Regel) wussten diese Mitmusiker wohl gar nicht, wie und wo ihr Beitrag auf dem fertigen Produkt erscheinen wird. Elektronik vermengt mit Instrumentalklang also. Krach trifft auf Tröten (wie z.B. in der bizarren Einleitungsnummer, in der tumultöses E-Gitarrenlärmen mit lyrischen Rohrblattlinien verziert wird), dröhnende Klangwände auf akustisches Gitarrengeschrammel, elektronisches Gewaber auf dezente Blockflötenlinien, industrieller Lärm auf fast sakrales Keyboardgeorgel oder jazzige Kornetteinlagen auf verschrobene Elektronikrhythmen, gewaltiges Dröhnen bzw. holprige Perkussion und allerlei wirres Elektronikfiepen und -zischen. Das Ergebnis ist ein ausgesprochen abwechslungsreiches und dichtes Klanggemenge, bizarr, lärmend, schräg, klangvoll, elegant, jazzig, mächtig, verspielt, farbig, wirr und zerbrechlich zugleich, versehen mit einigen Canterbury-Spuren (siehe auch Track 7), seltsamen Folkbezügen (z.B. Track 5 - eine Art Nick-Drak-Cover), kaum zu erkennenden Rockfragmenten und Ausflügen in kosmische Elektronikgefilde. "Winter Pilgrim Arriving" ist eine wahrlich progressive Klangreise in Soundräume jenseits von Jazz, Rock und Klassik, oder in eine jenseitige Schnittmenge daraus. Wer komplexe, dabei aber doch erstaunlich atmosphärische und angenehm zu hörende elektroakustische Tonexperimente schätzt, der sollte dieses beeindruckende Album auf keinen Fall verpassen! - Achim Breiling, BABYBLAUE

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Reviews

"Fascinating … defies categorisation … an internal coherence which makes it compulsive listening … an art-rock mini-universe" – Joe Cushley, Mojo

 

"Archer’s nonconformist musical approach somehow echoes the more conventional Englishness of Soft Machine and Nick Drake without recourse to imitataion, flattery or recognisable tunes. Mixing pastoral acoustic sounds with electronic flourishes, the album could be seen as an answer to Gastre del Sol’s like-minded appropriation of classic Americana, or simply enjoyed as one of the most beautiful examples of this often intimidating genre" – Stewart Lee, Sunday Times

 

"Anyone at all familiar with Archer's previous work on his Discus label would never accuse him of making things easy for the listener. Using what amounts to a private musical language, Archer usually pre-records contributions from collaborators, and then combines them using chance techniques and various other compositional strategies, sometimes requiring musicians (including himself) to interact with pre-recorded bits which he then stitches together -- all of which creates a strange, pervasive dislocation in Archer's music, as the listener tries to sort out intention from accident (usually without much success), and gradually begins to hear the accidents as part of a larger universe of sound. In fact, Archer's use of stochastic/aleatory principles as part of the compositional process may be one of the most persuasive arguments for John Cage that I've ever heard.

 

However, Archer has another side, which is reflected his confessed fondness for early 70's pop and jazz music -- everything from Miles Davis to Fairport Convention, Soft Machine, Faust and John Martyn. Winter Pilgrim Arriving is intended as an emotional recreation of that magical musical time, when all things (musically and otherwise) seemed possible. Of course, Archer is far too sophisticated to wear his musical influences on his sleeve, and he has come up with something more strange and complex than any music which a listener might have heard in the 70's. But the proper spirit is there, and with apologies to Archer's gallant little independent label, this recording could easily be an ECM release -- and a top ECM release at that. It has all the classic ECM ingredients -- it's superbly recorded, genre-bending, hauntingly melodic, sometimes ethereal and other-worldly, and sometimes just plain weird. Even when he's on his best sonic behavior, i.e., trying to make "regular" music, Archer is very fond of odd timbres and sound combinations, and he opens this CD playing a reedy, wistful soprano sax melody over crunchy, over-driven electric guitar which sounds a lot like an elephant stumbling through a huge pile of broken glass. Other pieces feature the excellent muted cornet of Derek Saw, (emulating the expressive mid-period Miles Davis of Filles de Kilimanjaro and In a Silent Way), and the lyrical Spanish-tinged acoustic guitar of Tim Cole. The aptly named "Death-runes, death rumours, ruins, rains of death" combines the brazen clanging of bells, more of the crunchy (and also howling) guitar, a sepulchral cathedral organ and ultimately a forlorn Medieval-sounding recorder. This piece demonstrates a total mastery of the Gothic genre, and it's clear that Archer could stake a claim as a Goth/Trance heavyweight if he had a notion (which I'm sure he doesn't). The next piece, "Chemistry lock," is intended as a homage to Soft Machine, and it switches gears with some fine and funky electronic drumming, plus trumpet, bassoon, and Archer's unique keyboard treatments, which include a Fender Rhodes emulation (except more liquid, almost like birdsong) and a neat, swoopy Moog sound. With characteristic modesty, Archer writes in his press release that he contemplated calling Mike Rattledge, the Softs' original keyboardist, but "found the idea too awesome to contemplate." Well, I'm a Rattledge and Soft Machine fan myself, but I'll put Archer's tribute, and his keyboard work on the tribute, up against anything in the Softs' catalogue. It's that cool.

 

I could ramble on about Archer's use of unusual instruments (bassoon, bowed crwth), his juxtapositions of timbres (acoustic guitar, clarinet, recorder, electronic rumbles and roars), and the way his music on this CD (and particularly the longer pieces, such as the title track and "River followers") represents the aural equivalent of strolling through some exotic, alien country, where everything is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, with delightful (and sometimes slightly unnerving) surprises emerging around every bend. But I'll end simply by urging everyone who reads this review to hear from themselves. Winter Pilgrim Arriving already has my vote for one of the richest and most profound recordings of the year 2000." – Bill Tilland, Motion

 

"I love what Martin Archer does. Year after year he manages to surprise me. This is one of his most accomplished works. Daring, demanding and highly rewarding" - Francois Couture, L'Inentendu.

 

Virtually everything in the label's small catalogue is excellent, including the documentation of his own work such as Ghost Lily Cascade, alongside which this release clearly sits.

 

Here, as on that disc and the equally fine Pure Water Construction, Archer works with a loose collection of musicians, whose improvisations are sampled and then reorganised into what Archer loosely refers to as compositions. The sound-world is fantastically rich and otherworldly, like a dream of music on another planet; the acoustics are all wrong, instrumentation comes and goes, but the whole usually sounds natural. It's just like listening to musicians playing together with a mike in front of them, albeit musicians with vary numbers of limbs playing instruments made from unknown materials.

 

One thing which gives this CD it's particular quality is a rather surprising affiliation with English folk music. That's dangerous in the wrong hands, leading to the risible kind of wimsy associated with prog-folk and the Cambridge School. Clearly this is something Archer has some fondness for, but his relocation of Bert Jansch (or whoever) into outer space is touching as well as surreal, poignant beyond any accusation of novelty.

 

As if slightly concerned about accusations of "going soft" or (heaven forfend) "selling out", Archer tends to place these folksy passages in an ambiance of thunderous noise, as if his imaginary guitarists, recordists and Ulelian pipers (imitated by Archer's phenomenally accomplished sopranino) were stranded on some nightmarish hard shoulder in a J G Ballard short story.

 

This is so zeitgeisty it's scary, and Archer really ought to be better known on the other side of the Atlantic, where chancers abound doing this sort of thing with little real musical commitment, often in search of witty postmodern gags or a sort of ersatz beat sensibility. This is an ultra-contemporary version of avant folk which can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Eugene Chadbourne's reimagining of hilbilly music in its lack of respect for any dogma, be it from the world of folk, improv or the electroacoustic avant garde. In its sense of unified diversity and its ever-changing atmospherics, one might also mention Zorn's film music: it really is that good, and it's also distinctively English and completely unique." - Richard Cochrane, Musings 

 

 

"Another fine release from a genuine music explorer" – Martin Lilleker, Sheffield Telegraph

 

"Winter Pilgrim Arriving" expresses through wide and surprising instrumentations evocative atmospheres that possess harmony and eclecticism combining their own particularities in a spontaneous flow of synthetic and organic sounds, rhythms, textures and sensibility. - Jean-Francois Fecteau, Le Vestibule.

 

"The best moments have a pastoral feel, with sopranino sax unwinding lazily over subtle electronics."- Dave Keenan, Wire.

 

"It transports the adventurous listener." – Jazz Weekly

 

"Anybody familiar with his work oughtta realise by now not to expect anything in particular, really. Having already defiled a jazz asceticism with a salubrious line in electronics, avant – raking and screwball noise, Archer’s approach to sonic architecture is fundamentally governed by a freedom suspended between gut instinct and academia….. Beginning, briefly, like a super – charged noise – riff monster before coursing foggier areas peppered with ebony sax swirls, Tim Buckley – ish strumming, recorders, percussion, the kinda samples that wouldn’t be turned away by Oval, etc….. there’s much to tug away at yr brain stem here. Never crossing the wrong side of such fitful bridge building to worlds of his own design, Archer’s invitation is etched more downright appealingly than ever." – Richo Johnson, Adverse Effect. 

 

"Some remarkable couplings of synth and Faheyesque guitar ..... successfully meshes 70s synthesizing with 90s free improv" - Chris Atton, Rubberneck

 

"This might be Archer's most accessible record, with moments of great simplicity, but also daring passages, resulting in something both demanding and highly rewarding" - AMG

"Parts of this album are really good, creative and explorative especially in the use of acoustic instruments against electronics" - Alan Freeman, Audion

 

"Another stunning record of thoroughly contemporary music. Fans of the downtown Chicago scene, particularly Gastr Del Sol, will love this delicate, free music. Archer creates an intimate feel with sparse arrangements and gentle waves of distortion. Acoustic instruments and electronics are weaved together to produce pieces that are like a long journey; all preparation and anticipation. It's only when the CD stops spinning that you realise what a trip you've had." - Joe Murray, Billy Liar

 

"Archer speaks of music from a certain period, the work of the Canterbury school of progressive rock, and the concomitant folk-rock sounds that were coming out of England during the same period, and how it conjured for him the feeling that music could be / do anything. These compositions give me a similar feeling, but they sound completely modern. Unlike a lot of other constructions of this type that I've heard, the patchwork and various graftings don't come across as such. This music sounds like it all happened live, made by an army of sympatico musicians with an arsenal of equipment and a communal working approach. The sounds themselves are quite disparate, but they are put together in such a way as to make them work magically. I'm impressed as hell by these little assemblages, and each time I listen the amount of detail unfolds in a new way for me." - Jeph Jerman - The Improvisor

 

 

"The year 2000 saw the release of this incredible album.  If there are those of you out there who 'have a problem' trying to get your head around 'Improv Music', then this album could be the one which might make things easier! Archer has developed a great technique where he records various people in different locations, sometimes together, sometimes solo. Some snippets are written and some are totally improvised. He then deftly weaves together all the raw materials to produce finished tracks which can start as delicate acoustic passages whilst being accompanied by ominous blasts of electricity. It can veer from frightening intensity to lush ambience all in a matter of minutes, seconds even. A rich and strong tapestry, which is at times astonishing. I wouldn't say it's an album to put on 'in the background' or to pop into your CD player when a few friends come around to visit, but one which, if you've got time to spare, just listen to whilst slunked into your chair, clamp your headphones on and get taken away for a while!


Archer was fascinated at all the different musics that were coming into view in the early 1970s, from the directions of Miles Davis to the various dark electronic escapades of certain collectives in deepest germany, he would also be captivated by the sound of witch-season acoustic guitars in the various twilight folk circles.

So many different ingredients, you could make anything happen. All these influences served as the inspiration for many of his Discus releases, but in particular, it's this album that realises it most.


"Angel Words"- starts with Ben Bartholomew's visceral guitar poundings while Archer's Soprano Sax sends out a shining clarion call. A very short opening track at just over two minutes, but kicks the gates open to all possibilities. "The Eclipse Farm Heresies"- develops into Acoustic Piano and Double Bass being surrounded by irritable sheets of Synth until Derek Saw's Cornet comes in to try and sort out the fuss. "Beautiful City On The Hill"- This starts with a cavernous breath of electronics, but just when you think you are entering an industrial wasteland, Bartholomew and Cole's Acoustic rich pickings show that it's just a summer storm on your favourite spot in the country.


"A Dream Of Broken and Floating Doors"- has some sparse yet playful muted Cornet, Flute and clattering Percussion, further offset by quick and minute scrapes and tweaks which sometimes has you wondering which instrument is on show. "Horn" is Archer's adaption of the Nick Drake composition with nicely paced ah-Guitar and frail Sax and somehow captures perfectly, the author's lost soul.
"Death-Runes, Death-Rumours, Ruins, Rains Of Death" Sinister tubular Synths, malfunctioned Guitars and god-knows-what Samples all glue together with further electronic hums which give out to the sound of a Recorder (!) which comes in like a shaft of sunlight in a darkened well. But this isn't a 'difficult' music, just very fascinating!


"Chemistry Lock (Mike, Elton, Hugh, Robert)" Well, as any canterbury cad will tell you, by the title alone, this tip's a hat to Soft Machine (circa "4" and "5"). The Drum programming is fantastic, although it doesn't sound as if it could be pulled off- believe me it does, this is the spirit of the Softs through a crisp millenium filter. Mick Beck's Bassoon playing starts to give this track real impetus, with Archer coming in later doing a perfect homage to Mike Ratlege. Obviously, this track was more formulated than the others on this recording and to say it captures the feel of that era of Soft Machine is an understatement, but it also shows another side to the collective players. It must be said also, that the production skills of Charlie Collins (who some people may remember as the jewel in the original Clock DVA crown), are one fine example of this man's many talents. I think the track could have gone on further than it's seven or so minutes though! 


The Title Track features the medieval welsh instrument, the Crwth, a sort of bowed Lyre cum Viola which ushers in a very foreboding atmosphere and sounds great set against Saw's Cornet. Blotches of solo melodic Synth then take the track to a different arena, especially when the Acoustic Guitars come in, until Archer's Sax and frosted electronics, ripple under all the disjointed pulses and flourishing sounds.

 
"River Followers (for Nick Drake)" Lush melodies, half and fully formed, dark washes of Synths and crazy ripped static Samples, eventually merge to some fading folk rumbles. As with every track on this album and other Discus releases, all the elements so different, yet all succumb to a strange and unbelievable whole. "Harbour Town Online" closes the album and is a short and very becalmed end to a very rich journey.
The Hidden Sound of Sheffield. It could open a whole new world for some people." - Jim Tones

 

 

He's managed to toe that line bretween musicality and the abstract, which is where the real interesting work lays. It's in this process of dismantling and re-fusing that sometimes the magic occurs. There can be a resonance of human spirit that lays within sound. Archer's found it. - Progress Report

 

 

Martin Archer ist Klangbastler. Aus akustischen und elektronischen Instrumentalklängen baut er Tonbilder oder Tongebilde, die sich einer klaren stilistischen Einordnung entziehen. Seit Mitte der 90er befasst er sich damit, nachdem er sich verstärkt elektronischen Klängen zugewandt hat. Das erste Ergebnis dieses elektro-akustischen Werkens war das 1996 erschienene Solo-Album "Ghost lily cascade". Auf dem 2000 veröffentlichten "Winter Pilgrim Arriving" hatte er die Technik perfektioniert. Akustisches (Rohrblattinstrumente, Flöten. Akustikgitarren, Kornett, Kontrabass, Piano, Perkussives) trifft hier auf Elektronisches, elektronisch verstärkte Instrumente bzw. elektronische Tongeneratoren (E-Gitarre, Keyboards, Synthesizer) und allerlei prozessierten Klang (der teilweise wieder akustische Ursprünge haben kann). Zusammengebastelt, übereinander geschichtet, dicht vermengt und bearbeitet hat die Tongebilde Archer im Alleingang, unter Verwendung diverser Klangerzeuger und Instrumentalspuren, die er selbst erzeugt hat, oder um die er verschiedene Gastmusiker gebeten hat. Mitunter (in der Regel) wussten diese Mitmusiker wohl gar nicht, wie und wo ihr Beitrag auf dem fertigen Produkt erscheinen wird. Elektronik vermengt mit Instrumentalklang also. Krach trifft auf Tröten (wie z.B. in der bizarren Einleitungsnummer, in der tumultöses E-Gitarrenlärmen mit lyrischen Rohrblattlinien verziert wird), dröhnende Klangwände auf akustisches Gitarrengeschrammel, elektronisches Gewaber auf dezente Blockflötenlinien, industrieller Lärm auf fast sakrales Keyboardgeorgel oder jazzige Kornetteinlagen auf verschrobene Elektronikrhythmen, gewaltiges Dröhnen bzw. holprige Perkussion und allerlei wirres Elektronikfiepen und -zischen. Das Ergebnis ist ein ausgesprochen abwechslungsreiches und dichtes Klanggemenge, bizarr, lärmend, schräg, klangvoll, elegant, jazzig, mächtig, verspielt, farbig, wirr und zerbrechlich zugleich, versehen mit einigen Canterbury-Spuren (siehe auch Track 7), seltsamen Folkbezügen (z.B. Track 5 - eine Art Nick-Drak-Cover), kaum zu erkennenden Rockfragmenten und Ausflügen in kosmische Elektronikgefilde. "Winter Pilgrim Arriving" ist eine wahrlich progressive Klangreise in Soundräume jenseits von Jazz, Rock und Klassik, oder in eine jenseitige Schnittmenge daraus. Wer komplexe, dabei aber doch erstaunlich atmosphärische und angenehm zu hörende elektroakustische Tonexperimente schätzt, der sollte dieses beeindruckende Album auf keinen Fall verpassen! - Achim Breiling, BABYBLAUE