18CD - Martin Archer - Heritage and Ringtones
Archer's definitive (to date) solo release mixes elements from improv, contemporary electronics and folk musics, plus a nod toward Sheffield's electronic past, into a beautiful yet uneasy whole.
Completing a trilogy with Ghost Lily Cascade (1994) and Winter Pilgrim Arriving (2000), Heritage and Ringtones comprises partly a series of radical cover versions in which everything but the melody is stripped away and replaced by Archer's unique electronic abstractions, and partly original compositions based largely around Archer's violectronic sound. A deliberate attempt to close the difference between live performance and studio approach results in a return to the harsher improv sound world of earlier releases, contrasted with some beautiful melodic and textural work.
The past, present and future sit uneasily side by side on this slice of authentic English genius, while the spirits of Faust, Ratledge and Vander listen on.
Come Sunday - (Duke Ellington)
It don't bother me - (Bert Jansch)
Wishing well - (Anne Briggs)
Let no man steal your time - (Trad)
That Sheffield sound
Martin Archer - violectronics, keyboards, processing, sopranino and alto saxophones, Bb and bass clarinets
Ingar Zach - percussion
Simon H. Fell - double bass
Rhodri Davies - harp
Tim Cole - acoustic guitar
Julie Cole - voice
Masayo Asahara - processing
Chris Meloche - processing
Herb Bayley - trombone
"A great achievement, a breakthrough, a quiet gem..... An uncategorisable CD that moves from the echo of one half-recognisable musical language to another; there is always a sense of melody, though often stretches seem apparently abstract; the structures are always focused and seductive. Great use is made of the harp (Rhodri Davies) and, on two tracks, acoustic guitar (Tim Cole), and of thematic materials, including those of the great Bert Jansch, Duke Ellington, Anne Briggs and Anon. Abstract sound and instrumental performance are dreamily blended. There is also a strong biographical feeling and a sense of seething, sometimes fragmentary recollection held firmly together by a coherent and precise sense of order and careful placement of materials. There is performance and not merely the shifting of waveforms around, retaining a sense of gesture and spontaneity. The CD is as diverse and surprising as it is consistent - in itself a remarkable fact. A nd as you realise how many opposites and incompatibles are negotiated and accommodated here, the scale of Archer's musical achievement begins to become apparent. There's nothing flashy or fashionable, just the quiet sense of a new road taken and a job well done. The result is personal and novel, and to these ears very substantial. A great record." - Chris Cutler, ReR
"Astonishing and profound"- Editorial, Stride
"A really rich album with a diversity of experiences and incredible presentation" - Jazzosphere
"It's as if Archer has fallen asleep at an improv gig and is imagining the delights of recorded music invading the mix.....Bright eyed and cleverer than a thousand other contemporary musicians." - Ben Watson, Wire
"An intriguing collage of sounds.....quintessentially English" - Duncan Heining, Jazzwise
"A finely balanced recording that openly pays homage to musical influences as well as incorporating the developments that have sprung from them.....Well worth seeking out" - Paul Donnelly, Stride
"An album of opposites and contrasts, in which Martin Archer obviously poured everything he had, Heritage and Ringtones follows a vein similar to Ghost Lily Cascade and Winter Pilgrim Arriving, while integrating the new grounds covered on English Commonflowers. The result is one of his most endearing albums yet. The balance between yearning melodies, experimentation and noise defines a new level of perfection in his work. The title refers to the two interlaced sequences of pieces presented here. Heritage points to a set of highly personalized covers and tributes to Archer's influences. The album opens with Ellington's Come Sunday (of which only the melody is recognizable). Bert Jansch and Anne Briggs are also revisited. Where's Mike? adds another nod to Soft Machine's original keyboardist Mike Ratledge and his genre-defining organ sound (this track is significantly better than Archer's previous tribute to Ratledge, found on English Commonflowers). Angelus Vander pays homage to Magma with nine minutes of escalating madness propelled by a bass drum pulse and a mind-numbing one-note rhythmic line hammered at the piano. Electronics, saxophones and who knows what are gradually added until the tune turns into a devilish orgy of sounds. The Ringtone series applies the recomposing process Archer uses on his previous albums to recast improvisations into new pieces. Harpist Rhodri Davies, guitarist Tim Cole and bassist Simon H. Fell all have their playing reassembled into backing tracks for Archer's violectronics (a violin hooked to several effects for live electroacoustic performance). He also reprocesses pre-existing music from drummer Ingar Zach and composer Chris Meloche. The Ringtone series is slightly more abstract, but still features its share of pretty moments alleviating the challenging but highly rewarding listen. Again, Archer has managed to produce an hour of unique music, outside any known genres or schools. The closing track, That Sheffield Sound, featuring an elegant sopranino sax line, acoustic guitar and outdated electronics, should be titled That Archer Sound. Because no other labelling will do." - François Couture, All Music Guide
"Another strange and very varied explorative album fron Archer" - Audion
"I'l s'agit D'un album tres interessant faissant un portrait du travail de l'artiste et superbement presente" - Jazzopsphere
"Excellent release from this diehard artiste living in Sheffield, something of an overlooked genius who can't seem to get his fair share of the 'juice' in today's avant-music world. Maybe he's unwilling to play the schmoozing game that seems to be required price of admission to the upper echelons of the festival circuit; if so, good for him. The splendid music is illuminated by extensive notes from Archer included in the press release; he's a craftsman who likes to tell us how much work went into these pieces. This is mostly a solo electronics record (in a way) in the vein of some of his beautiful 1990s releases, like Ghost Lily Cascade; though he also plays saxes, the violectronic, and other instruments, and there are not a few collaborators, either appearing live or as samples. Editing is important too; there's a lot of what he calls 'improvedits', by which I understand him to mean he takes an intuitive approach to this mechanical process.
The 'heritage' side of the project concerns Archer performing versions of songs by, or tributes to, some of his musical heroes from the past – in this case Duke Ellington, Bert Jansch and Anne Briggs. The 'ringtones' are four lengthy electronic and sampling compositions (one of which is quite magnificent). This part of the project reveals a testy and exasperated side to this world-weary musician, who clearly feels that so much great music of the past is in severe danger of being forgotten or swept away, in the frantic search for novelty that characterises today's market. Or perhaps because we all have such short attention spans now. In a slightly bitter tone of resignation, Archer declares that the commercial production of ringtones for mobile phones is the 'only real growth area' left in music. Anyone taking a look about them in the UK in 2005 can't help but shrug their shoulders in agreement; mobile phones, high street shops and kebabs seem to be all we have left. Archer's sarcastic response is to compose his ringtones so that they last over nine minutes; if actually used on mobile phones, they wouldn't allow a call to get through. Which is probably the whole idea; anti-commercial hoaxes delivered with a faintly sarcastic barb.
The ringtone works were recorded during 2003-2004; Archer's collaborators include the harpist Rhodri Davies, Simon H Fell, visiting percussionist Ingar Zach, Tim Cole who provides some lovely acoustic guitar on 'Ringtone 2', and Chris Meloche who appears in sampled form. Overall these are all a lot busier than some of his recent works (even including the spoof Japanese progressive rock record), and the 'improvedit' method delivers interesting and exciting results, much like Simon Fell in his glory days, giving the listener too much to cope with at once. Archer seems to be revelling in manic glee, informed by a dose of above bitterness, bringing a hang-it-all quality which leads him to the cusp of musical mayhem (although his essential Englishness and politeness rein him in). His sax playing is showcased to advantage on 'It don't bother me' and 'Where's Mike?', where his simple clean tone shines through, even when plastered with electronic and percussion malarkey at every turn.
Tracks 8-11 on this CD comprise a single long work, about 22 minutes in four parts, a tribute to the folk singer Anne Briggs and according to Archer 'the best piece I have made to date'. Certainly it's very strong, and on at least two main levels. Compositionally, it uses violectronic improvisations, voice recordings, layers of other compositions from this same CD, and lots of editing; the voices come from Archer, his female alter ego Masayo Asahara, and the excellent Julie Cole. The voices melt into each other, warping in and out of distorted dimensions, producing an extremely distinctive musical taste; at times, quite haunting. Thematically, it's his personal update on the lyric 'Let No Man Steal Your Thyme', which in Briggs' world was a warning to young maidens to protect their virginity from the inevitable hordes of invasive, rapacious and greedy males. Archer's variant is to substitute 'time' for 'thyme', making yet another comment on contemporary Western society, equally invasive with the million and one pointless distractions and amusements it forces upon us, all of which of course amount to no more than banal, futile, timewasting trivia. Archer exhorts us to resist this process with our dying breath.
This is one of Archer's more successful and worthwhile releases, created with great intelligence and craftsmanship in editing and composition. Also it sounds absolutely fantastic; a strong, loud hi-fi resolution is its hallmark. An ambitious electro-acoustic (mostly) work filled with variety, textures and plenty of meanings and resonances for you to decode." - Ed Pinsent, Sound Projector
"Archer combines electronics and acoustics, live playing and tapes, but most importantly, he blends harmony and disharmony, and does this n ways that are complimentary, unexpected and original. And on a few cuts he combines his love for English traditional folk music with free playing. I enjoy both these categories, but have never heard them Cuisinarted. They work blended as well as in tandem on this disc. Grace and rattling, taste and junk, convention and radical culture- all of these are here, and they judiciously balance each other out. Archer & Co. have good ears and good sense, which come together not often enough in the musical world. An unexpected treat." - Richard Grooms, The Improvisor
"Curious, I got hold of some of the Discus pearls and am delighted by a fascinating electro-acoustic aesthetic of saxophone and clarinet timbres, which mix with keyboard, synthesizer and violectronic sounds, drum programmes and processing. For Heritages Archer sampled the percussionist Ingar Zach and decorated the four "Ringtone" tracks with Rhodri Davis' harp and Fell's double bass. Tim Cole adds acoustic guitar, as if a lyrical, folklore substrate was to be made audible behind the mist clouds of a nuclear power station. We kick off with Ellington's "Come Sunday", followed by two instrumental Bert Jansch songs, and Julie Cole sings the traditional "Let no man steal your time". The contrast, whose tension is already torn open in the title Heritage and Ringtones, cuts through the layers of time and opens up a losses balance sheet of progress, avoiding simple aversion or nostalgiac denial. Archer manages the rare magic of interfusing past and present into "That Sheffield Sound". He places us on a glass floor, under which a "Once there was" rumbles like the chorale of "Angelus Vander". The ensuing consistency stems from the integrative musical alchemy itself, Archer's brew of impro-jazz, soundscaping and a cultural memory, which sets "senseless acts of beauty" against the contemporary arrow." - BA51
'Heritage and Ringtones' seamlessly mixes reinterpreted songs of times past with a handful of almost unclassifiable moderne abstractions ('Ringtones 1-4'). The disparate set of covers, including Duke Ellington's 'Come Sunday' and Bert Jansch's 'It Don't Bother Me', are so radically reworked that only the melody remains intact. The ancient Trad. Arr. 'Let No Man Steal Your Thyme' is the only track that retains a vocal line, a suitably spooky one courtesy of Julie Cole, chaperoned by a throng of babbling and murmuring treatments. The 'Ringtones' series with harpist Rhodri Davies and double bassist Simon H. Fell as constants comes to an undoubted peak with 'Part Two' which sees a soprano sax solo manfully dodging random lightning strikes and blipping synthery. With its staccato keyboard stabs, running against a fast b.p.m. heartbeat, I'd guess that 'Angelus Vander' might just be a tribute to Magma's leader Christian Vander, however the eventual systemic warp and weft payoff manages to steer it away from CV's Orff/Coltrane worship for a while. So, who knows - regardless of that, it's a great track and no mistake. - Steve Pescott - TERRASCOPIC RUMBLES
Come all you rolling minstrels and together we will try to rouse the spirit of the earth and move the rolling sky. (Sandy Denny, 1969) Das obige Zitat, der Anfang des Textes des Songs "Come all ye" vom Fairport-Convention-Album "Liege and Lief", ist im Beiheft von Martin Archers siebtem Soloalbum zu finden. Mit der Musik der britischen Folkrocker haben Archers Klangkreationen zwar weniger zu tun - auch wenn einige durchaus klare Bezüge vorhanden sind; siehe weiter unten -, doch könnte der in der Zeile beschriebene Effekt, den die Tätigkeit eines Minstrel auf Erde und Himmel hat, wohl auch durch die Musik des Tonbastlers aus Sheffield hervorgerufen werden. Eine Art von Spielmann ist Archer mit Sicherheit. Die meisten Klänge auf "Heritages and Ringtones" hat Archer selbst erzeugt, vermittels Saxophonen, Klarinetten, diversen Tasteninstrumenten und Violine. Dazu kommen noch einige akustische Gastbeiträge an Schlagzeug, Akustikgitarre, Posaune und Kontrabass. Diese Tonspuren wurden dann ausgiebig elektronisch bearbeitet, effektverfremdet, durch elektronischen Klang ergänzt, miteinander vermengt und übereinander geschichtet. Das Ergebnis ist ein sehr eigenes Geflecht an experimenteller Elektronik, Jazz und Freiformatigem, welches zudem um Fragmente von Rock, Retroprogressivem und Folk angereichert wurde. "Heritages and Ringtones" besteht vornehmlich aus prozessiertem Klang, aus kargen bis klangvollen, immer eher angeschrägten und freien Mustern aus Keyboardsounds, verfremdeten Akustikklängen und rein elektronischen Tonerzeugnissen, Soundwolken und Geräuschen. Über diesem klanglichen Fundament erheben sich bisweilen akustische Tonspuren, Canterbury-Fragmente (Ratledge-verwandte Orgelbruchstücke - oder elektronische Sounds, die so oder so ähnlich klingen), rockige Schlagzeuglinien, Reste jazziger Soli, modern-avantgardistische Kammermusikmomente (man lausche z.B. dem dichten Gemenge an Kontrabass, Gebläse und Harfe in der zweiten Hälfte von "Ringtone 1") und immer wieder folkige Überbleibsel und Melodielinien. Sax und Klarinette intonieren oft klagende, uralt wirkende Lieder, die Akustikgitarre klampft meist folkig (in "Ringtone 2" z.B.), immer begleitet von bizarren Elektroniksounds und klanglichen Extravaganzen."Wishing well" kombiniert z.B. getragene, liedhafte Saxophonklänge, dezentes Akustikgitarrengezupfe und glockige Perkussion mit lärmender, knurrender und rauschender Elektronik.In der zweiten Albumhälfte tauchen zudem vermehrt folkig-medievale Gesänge auf, mitunter stark prozessiert (man höre z.B. "Ringtone 3"), während sich in "Let no man steal your time" der wunderschöne, glockenhelle Gesang Julie Coles ganz unverfremdet über einem dezenten Muster aus bearbeitetem Klang erhebt. Etwas aus der Reihe tanzt (im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes) "Angelus Vander" (eine Hommage an Christian?), das monoton-hektische Rhythmusmuster vom Computer mit jazzig-rockig-flotten Tastenmustern und free-jazzigem Getröte paart. "Heritages and Ringtones" ist alles in allem ein durchaus passender Albumtitel (wobei es sicher eine sehr witzige Idee wäre, eines der Nummern dieses Albums als Klingelton zu verwenden), wird hier doch Vererbtes aus Folk, Jazz und Rock mit moderner, avantgardistischer Elektronik vermengt bzw. angereichert. Das klangliche Ergebnis ist doch reichlich komplex, freiformatig und wüst, strahlt aber eine sehr eigene, seltsam modern-mediavele Atmosphäre aus. Progger, die keine Angst vor wirklichen Klangabenteuern haben, sollten das Album dringend antesten! - Achim Breiling BABYBLAUE