39CD - Julie Tippetts & Martin Archer - Tales of FiNiN
Following on from the duo's widely acclaimed first full length collaboration Ghosts of Gold (Discus 37CD, 2009), which was essentially an album of poetry plus electronic soundscapes, FiNiN shifts toward extended jazz and electronic song forms and widens the sonic palette to include a larger group of musicians together with an emphasis on rhythm. The result is an adventurous and beautiful suite of 17 musically and thematically linked songs spread over 2 CDs.
Although the duo is a studio rather than a live group, this is most definitely a not another "singer submits to studio producer" type album; Martin and Julie are equally hands on for both the performance and the production of this CD from first to last.
We leave the listener to interpret the story……….
Julie Tippetts - voice
Martin Archer - laptop, woodwind, keyboards etc
Chris Sharkey - guitar
Charlie Collins - drums and percussion
Paul Schatzberger & Beatrix Ward-Fernandez - violins
Angela Rosenfeld - cello
UTT - turntables
Steve Dinsdale - drums
James Archer - programming
From solo albums such as sunset Glow to collaborative projects with SME and pianist husband Keith, Julie Tippetts has long established herself as one of the most original vocalists in improvised music. This latest offering sees her paired with laptop artists and multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer together with guests including guitarist Chris Sharkey of Acoustic Ladyland / Trio VD and improv drummer Charlie Collins.....There is something of the mature fairytale in Tales of FiNiN's dislocated, disconcerting sound. It's adventurous stuff and gloriously pigeon-hole resistant: this is both more abstract and broadminded than conventional folktronica. It's a deeply haunting record that, to borrow a claim from Archer's myspace site, sounds like nothing with which you are already familiar. - Marcus O'Dair, Jazzwise (FOUR STARS)
Tippetts [sings with] rich tone and soulfulness.....this is a one-off for listeners willing to hang up all preconceptions about free jazz, noise, collages, meaning and language, electronics or pretty much anything else. - John Fordham, Guardian
Enchanting and enchanted - Alessandro Achilli, Radio Musical Perspectives
You’ll have to listen to this one many times to get to the heart of the lyrics and enjoy all the riches of its soundscapes - Francois Coutour, Monsieur Delire
Following their excellent 2009 release Ghosts of Gold computer musician Martin Archer and vocalist Julie tippetts join forces once again to create a work that, in its structure and presentation, resurrects the forgotten art of the 1970s concept album. Two discs and a thick songbook are housed in a triple gatefold sleeve that has been ornamented with watercolours by Tippetts, while the songs veer from electronic poems and bouts of throat singing to epic workouts involving several players. The teaming of Archer and Tippetts is an inspired one, with both artists bouncing exciting sonic ideas off each other - Tippets's sung and spoken texts becoming absorbed into Archer's evolving electronic maelstrom, and gently buffeted along by heartily played horns, symphonic strings and carefully spliced samples. While Archer and Tippetts have resisted letting the cat out of the bag about the pieces that make up Tales of FiNiN, listeners are encouraged to use their imagination in deciphering their true meaning. Refusing to be pigeonholed in any recognisable musical or experimental category, trace elements of folk, jazz, electronica and Balinese music drift through the project, sometimes purposefully distorted or bent out of shape. At the centre of this grad folly is FiNiNscreek Castle, a sublime crashing together of singing bowls, sopranino saxophones, strings and percussion ovber which Tippetts pushes her vocal range to the limit. At 13 minutes plus, this is worth the price of admission alone. Mention must also be made of the inventive use of musical samples that range from Junior Walker, Herbie Mann and Michael (Mikey Dread) Campbell whose Ancestral Dub brings an unexpected blaze of spectral sunshine to the vocal and instrumental thunderstorm that surrounds it. - Edwin Pouncey - WIRE
Record of the month. We are ungrateful. We have forgotten that after the occupation by the "fraternal armies", the British singer Julie Driscoll recorded a nearly seven- minute long song called Czechoslovakia for her album: she condemned the invasion and she ended her song with a powerful cry over the loss of humanity in our country. Has actually anyone, - in our newly found freedom -, appreciated her and say 'thank you' to her, or ever will?
How is this reminiscence connected with a double-album by Julie Tippetts and Martin Archer? After marrying the piano player Keith Tippett, the singer [Julie Driscoll] not only changed her surname but also altered her musical habitus. At the peak of her popularity, she managed to jump out of the show-business conveyor belt and establish herself in the much more intimate environment, dominated by jazz modernism and poetic lyrics, combined with electronic sound wizardry. She has co-operated closely not only with her husband Tippett but also with the singer Maggie Nicols, bass-player Harry Miller, saxophonist Gary Windo or another pianist John Wolf Brennan; as well as performing with the legendary formation 'Company' and the vocal quartet 'Voice'. In 2009, she released the first album together with the saxophonist, keyboard, laptop player and electronic player Martin Archer in the Sheffield label 'Discus'. It was so well received that they both decided to continue in their studio work, which resulted in the current double-album Tales of FiNiN. In it, Archer's sounds range from tender twittering, chirruping to electronic ranting, finally reaching unsettling noisy wrapping. And the singer uses perfectly this musical background (including the explosive drums, resembling often explosions of shells). What is presented to us here are no songs; they are dramatic montages in which the voice emerges and dives, multiplies, excites, pauses, vanishes, overflows with sorrow, and then strokes tenderly and blends. Her excitement is not idle. It organically arises from her (own) lyrics without losing tunefulness. She rises on the waves of surprising musical titillation: she does not narrate but confides in us with her own conclusions she made for herself and for us.
This journey through the two-volume suite takes us through the valley of the world of finity and infinity. As well as the main protagonists, other players are irreplaceable in their respective roles: the guitarist Chris Sharkey (Acoustic Ladyland, Trio VD), the string trio, comprising of the violinists Paula Schatzberger and Beatrix Ward-Fernandez and violoncellist Angel Rosenfeld ; the percussionists Charlie Collins, Steve Dinsdale or James Archer, and also turntablist UTT. Racketing, deep humming, sound wizardry, explosive power as if from a pressure cooker, rolling as if pouring nuts from a pouch, etude entries of strings and joyful brasses; all those support the vocalist to fully develop her singing possibilities and nuances from nonchalant mumbling, trilling or the gothic-like expression with powerful arches, over to linguistic windstorm or sound 'tongue-twisters' towards emotional almost intimate arias and cultivated tirades. This triumphant journey across FiNiNland is interwoven with magical twists. Sometimes it appears as if Julie Tippetts discussed with herself, lamenting and mapping the landscape she is walking through, and her momentary feelings. It is a suite made in one pot, yet simultaneously it is polymorphous, layered, dreamy and dreaming, attacking. The togetherness of the voice and musical background seems to be sometimes antipodal but we soon understand that both the singer and the instruments respond in an almost soul-searching manner, and how all the details are mastered and performed to perfection. And if you expect that the second CD would repeat what galvanized us in the first one, you would be mistaken. Both Tippetts and Archer (and on no account do we underestimate his role because he is the main creator of the music and as such is able to liberate himself from the established customs) find again new, unusual entrees and methods, other ways to link the voice with the background music resembling time to time timeless hourglass; other times they sound like roaring of the friendly and unfriendly world, gusts of life and existence of the city or nature, different, accentuated interpretation of the duet self-expression. After the performance of Julie Driscoll at the festival Bratislavská lyra in 1968, the critic Ji?í ?erný wrote then that it was "an electrifying musical divine worship". When you listen to the Tales of FiNiN, you will certainly agree that this appraisal is equally true about Julie Tippetts. - Zdenek Slaby, UNI
Epic journey acted out over ceaselessly inventive soundscape.
Notwithstanding the fact that this is only their second joint release, Martin Archer and Julie Tippetts are in danger, musically speaking, of becoming the Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Lane of avant-garde jazz. “Tales of FiNiN”, carries on in similar vein to their debut, 2009’s “Ghosts of Gold” although the musical breadth is widened quite noticeably over what is definitely a concept album of sorts and set in an imaginary world but were the listener, according to the company blurb, is left to interpret the story. Well apologies from me as I’ve not quite worked it out yet, but then there’s been so much to take in musically.
Spread over two discs, the first of these is a largely juxtaposition between Archer’s Dolphy-style clanks, scratches and skitters and Tippetts’ gymnastic vocals – that’s when she isn’t narrating in spoken word, of which there is an awful lot. While Tippetts would sound simply divine just reading from the telephone directory, it is the sheer uniqueness and dexterity of her singing voice that most commands the attention not to mention unstinting admiration. At times she appears to do battle with or just fills in for played instruments to elevate Archer’s evocative and complex musical arrangements to new levels. If occasionally this part of the opus sounds a bit too much like performance art for comfort, then it is enlivened by “The Other Side” wherein the jazz singer goes head on with the Mahavishnu Orchestra, or so it sounds. Scintillating stuff.
While listeners may find CD1 something of an acquired taste then the second half of the tale seems more accessible, or perhaps it’s because these ears have become more accustomed to what the artists are serving up. The jazz is all of a sudden more soulful, catchier and, to me at least, makes more sense, while Archer introduces more in the way of world music influences such as with the sopranino saxophone phrasings on “FiNiNsridge” and far eastern strains of “Away Too Far”. Most strikingly, however, is the introduction of a hefty slab of trip-hop, to the extent you can be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled upon the Bristol Collective circa 1993 or perhaps some darker urban space inhabited by the likes of Burial, and which “Taunts of the Fallen” and “Straight Talking/Eulogy” (which claustrophobically reprises “The Other Side”) are both cases in point.
“Tales of FiNiN” is not without its challenges and demands both the listener’s attention and repeat visits in order to be able to fully absorb what is on offer. However, listen and then listen again and patience will be well rewarded. Not for the first time – and hopefully not the last - one has to marvel not just at Archer’s great ability as a composer, arranger and musician (and hats off to a strong supporting cast) across a range of styles but at the truly sublime and ageless Tippetts. Dame-hood surely beckons - anything less would be a travesty. - PTOLOMAIC TERRASCOPE ONLINE