131CD - Julie Tippetts & Martin Archer - Illusion - CD plus download

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A new double CD from Julie Tippetts & Martin Archer, the first for 6 years, and our most ambitious work to date.  The two CDs can be listened to separately and in any order. Each volume offers a different perspective on a common theme.


CIRCLE OF WHISPERS is a sequence of 13 separate and contrasting songs, performed by various small groups drawn from the JTMA Ensemble, plus some guest musicians.  Each song details a character / situation whose presence is hinted at in the companion disc. For the first time on a JTMA record, instrumental composer credits on a number of tracks go to Laura Cole and to Nick Robinson. The result is a powerful and often intensely beautiful record.


By contrast ILLUSION SUITE, although split into 7 tracks, is a single piece of music which runs without break for 75 minutes. The music is structured like a DJ mix - with elements appearing, reappearing, and transforming throughout.  Extensive use of chance procedures was made in arriving at the finished form of the electronic music which forms the base layer of the piece, over which we hear both the ensemble in full throttle and Julie’s complex vocal arrangements.  Occasionally the music reaches passages of great – almost overwhelming - density, and periodically the 140 bpm rhythms collapse into abstraction.


(NB for more detail on how the whole Illusion Suite was composed and how the electronic music came about in its final form please see the online notes for Discus 132DL “Electronic Music from Illusion Suite” where the electronic music layer, stripped of instrumental and vocal overdubs, is available as a free download (Discus 132DL).


We hesitate to attempt to explain the narrative which sits behind both discs.  The note at the end of the booklet might be useful, or it might not.  It’s an everyday situation with everyday characters who have everyday issues to deal with.  Maybe.


Up until this record Julie and I had worked without break, starting each new CD as soon as the previous one was released, and delivering a new work every one or two years over a series of four Discus Music releases (Ghosts of Gold, Tales of FiNiN, Serpentine and Vestigium). This time round it was very different. Interrupted variously by illness, bad luck, covid, injury and tragedy, completion of this work has eventually taken us hundreds of hours, both creating and listening. Over a six year period we have lavished – whenever we have been able - our total, undivided care and attention on every single second of this music.  We hope you will love it as much as we do. - JULIE & MARTIN





Julie Tippetts – voice

Martin Archer – keyboards, electronics, radio waves, all saxophones and clarinets



Peter Fairclough – drums

Seth Bennett – double bass

Anton Hunter – electric guitar, loops and electronics

George Murray – trombone

Corey Mwamba – vibraphone, wood flute

Charlotte Keeffe – trumpet, flugelhorn




James Archer – beats and loops

Mark Hadman – drones and grinds

Michael Harding – textures and melodies

Hervé Perez – field recordings, electronics, shakuhachi, close mic soprano sax

Chris Trent – industrial environment



Paul Schatzberger – violin

Aby Vulliamy – viola

Angela Rosenfeld – cello





Julie Tippetts – voice

Martin Archer – keyboards, electronics, woodwind


with small groups drawn from


B J Cole – pedal steel guitar

Laura Cole – grand piano

Steve Dinsdale – electronic drums

Peter Fairclough – drums, percussion

Liz Hanks – cello

Anton Hunter – electric guitar, loops and electronics

George Murray – trombone

Nick Robinson – acoustic & electric guitars

Angela Rosenfeld – cello

Paul Schatzberger – violin

Simmy Singh – violin and viola

Michael Somerset – shaman percussion

Aby Vulliamy – viola

This is a remarkable and special album..... tremendous work. - Don Campau BBC Radio 6



The most captivating music I've listened to for ages - feedback from a Discus customer



The new Julie Tippetts / Martin Archer is FANTASTIC! It reminds me some pieces from 1969 Julie ‘s LP, but not only that. There are two modern creative pieces, with a great orchestra behind, or only very tight pieces with a rare emotion in, well, a great moment of pure pleasure. - feedback from a Discus customer



It’s been six difficult years since 2015’s Vestigum, the last recording from the long-established collaboration of vocalist/songwriter Julie Tippetts and multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer. Despite the practical and emotional struggles of the Covid pandemic, and especially the passing of Julie’s husband Keith, somehow the pair have managed to create a typically ambitious double album maintaining the high-resolution sonic quality that distinguished their previous work. Themed around the world of the circus and the fairground, the Illusion suite on the first disk is a continuum of linked songs that range from the freefalling Chances to the breezily almost-poppish Magic Man and the gospel hinting Turning It Around. The latter sparkles with Charlotte Keeffe’s trumpet and Corey Mwamba’s rippling vibes, while poignant lyrics sketch the bewilderment of bereavement.  The second album Circle Of Whispers is even more wide-ranging sonically across its 13 tracks, with two compact vocal/piano duets jointly composed with Laura Cole and a brace of collaborations with Nick Robinson’s acoustic guitar set among sprawling mini-epics like Elephant Rider and the frenetic electric torrents of Blade Juggler.

The crafted way the production draws on the JTMA Ensemble’s large pool of instruments and players recalls Carla Bley’s richly imaginative Escalator Over The Hill and the fulsome ensemble work of the Working Week Collective – to both of which Tippetts contributed, of course.  The resulting weave of musical texture and atmosphere provides a series of evocative settings to Tippetts’ lyrics, sometimes mystical, sometimes surreal, always poetically theatrical.  The continuity of the whole, however, derives from the strong musical personalities at its core. Archer’s vocabulary of electronics and keyboards and Tippetts’ equally eclectic repertoire of vocal style run together through both albums with the respectful simpatico that gave their earlier recordings such character.  It comes through the playfully abstract Less, the shape-shifting Trapeze and the swampy coda to Movin’ On but reaches an astonishing pitch for the exquisite Between Mountains, a haunting ballad featuring Julie Tippetts’ voice at its most spine-tinglingly beautiful. This is a big listen, not to be shuffled, but the satisfying richness of the music makes it well deserving of the attention it demands. - Tony Benjamin, Jazzwise



A double CD album containing over two hours of music, plus a package of an essay, lyrics and strong images. Illusion cast in realism – it all adds up to an implicit statement from a key, major force in British music.  The avant garde/improv/jazz scene specifically, but to those who listen hard enough, the whole export of ‘sound’ in the UK since the 60’s… and then right through to this battered 2020 decade. Like so many other people recently, Julie Tippetts has had more than enough uphill climbing to do (witness Between Mountains); explicitly coping with the passing of her long term husband and musical partner Keith Tippett.  The fact that her closing words on this epic are, we’re movin’ on… it’s time… don’t waste time should be taken as a statement of fortitude. The album has two names on the cover… the ‘other’ Martin Archer.  Not the reed soloist of his own recent See You Soon… album.  Here it’s the sound sculpting-specialist-Archer, arguably targeting his most densely detailed set of arrangements for large ensemble. (My opinions are always open to argument.)  The first CD is well over 70 minutes; in my view it’s worth putting the time aside to hear it in a single session.  Voice within ensemble is the prime focus, ethereal yet containing a strong vein of presence; word driven yet with plenty of room to scoop sound out of literal meaning… Pandemonium, citing the subject of lies whilst carrying language into spontaneous improv – Corey Mwamba’s vibraphone becomes a choral duet as it pings out of the ensemble.  There’s musical history in here too.  Magic Man, almost hits a soul groove, Anton Hunter’s guitar could be Muscles Shoals horn section funk in Sheffield, Alabama, and even a nod (probably not intentionally) to Trinity’s Indian Rope Man. There are sixteen musicians contributing to Illusion overdubbing aplenty. The fact that the music travels-light is to the credit of all involved.  I know the album has been long in the making but it doesn’t give that impression (truly illusionary).  It’s an epic of immensity and wholeness. Julie Tippetts is all she ever was and more. Hey, Jools, still quoting Shirley Ellis’ Clapping Song; pick up the past and hurl it forward.  But, that ain’t all, Circles Of Whispers is the second disk.  Twelve individual tracks drawing on smaller groupings from the main ensemble.  There’s a wealth of good stuff here.  My specific favourites are the two tracks with Nick Robinson’s acoustic guitar which comes on like the iconic John Martyn somewhere between his Stormbringer and Solid Air albums.  On Sword Swallower and Big Cat Tamer the singing is aerated against Robinson’s instrument to such a degree these pared down performances cry out as harbingers for an entire duo album... truly fantastic. The other standouts from this Circle of treasures are the collaborations with Laura Cole’s piano, Water Message and Dancing On Air.  Both tracks are each under two minutes in duration. They caress and commit the art of heart to song form. That’s what it’s about isn’t?  Two hours of Illusion? Certainly in name, but believe me this is the real thing. - Steve Day, April 2022



Illusion is the first album for six years by vocalist Julie Tippetts and multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer, here on saxophones, clarinets, keyboards and electronics. It’s their most ambitious to date. Before this recording, they’d worked together to a punishing schedule, starting each new album as soon as the previous one was released. The results were Ghosts Of Gold, Tales Of FiNiN, Serpentine and Vestigum. Due to a series of vicissitudes, some of them harrowing, the present release is a more protracted but also a deeper and more moving effort.  The album is divided into two parts – Circle Of Whispers and Illusion Suite – both featuring the eponymous JTMA Ensemble. Many of the musicians in this outstanding group are longtime partners of Martin Archer and familiar names – I’ve loved Corey Mwamba’s creative vibraphone playing for some years now and drummer Peter Fairclough’s excellent work for even longer.  Circle Of Whispers is a sequence of 13 songs, performed by various small groups drawn from JTMA plus guests. For the first time in the album series, composers include members of the ensemble, notably pianist Laura Cole and guitarist Nick Robinson. One outstanding track is Sea Sapphire which has the ethos of a John Coltrane-ish dirge in free time, with a lyric that recalls The Tempest’s “full fathom five”.   Archer is best known as a horn player but his keyboard solos on this track and elsewhere are a revelation.  [NB the piano solo on Sea Sapphire is actually played by Laura Cole - MWA]. The sinuous jazz rock of Elephant Ride and the psychedelic “Blade Juggler” feature multitracked vocals. Fortune Teller and Movin’ On are infused with retrofuturistic space age effects, while Blade Juggler has a striking electric keyboard tonality.  Illusion Suite, by contrast, is a single work running continuously for 75 minutes, though the recording is divided into seven tracks.  Here the music is structured like a DJ mix, with elements manipulated and sometimes reappearing throughout. Chance procedures were used in creating the electronic base, over which we hear the ensemble and Tippetts’ voice.  This music was conceived in 2013 and intended for the Vestigum album but not completed. Archer has produced a download on his Discus label – Electronic Music From Illusion Suite – wherein the electronic music is stripped of almost all subsequently recorded instrumental and vocal layers, but includes a layer of atmospheric ambient sounded recorded by Chris Trent at Magna Steelworks in Rotherham. In this practice, Archer is inspired by Stockhausen’s publication of electronic backgrounds from his Licht cycle.  Chances begins the suite with a stuttering electronic backdrop, a compelling jazz groove and multitracked vocals that effloresce into a rich tapestry of vocal and instrumental sound – in fact mulitracked vocals are the norm on Illusion Suite. There are no instrumental solos, but a collective improvisation ethos that builds to a powerful climax. The impact of Less is enhanced by vinyl applique effects – its opulent complexity denies the title, as it develops into a kaleidoscope of voices…..  Despite the vicissitudes of its production – and partly because of them – Illusion is a powerfully crafted, diverse and affecting release. It is often intensely beautiful, and shows a very satisfying artistic collaboration. It richly repays repeated listening and offers some of the most compelling work of Julie Tippetts’ career. This is not an artist who rests on their laurels. - Andy Hamilton, THE WIRE



This is the fifth album by the British Avant-Garde Jazz duo comprising of iconic vocalist / songwriter Julie Tippetts and multi-instrumentalist / composer / Discus label owner Martin Archer. The music was created over a period of six years since the release of the duo’s previous album, materializing two CDs worth of musical magic. The first CD, subtitled “Circle Of Whispers” presents thirteen songs performed by Tippetts and accompanied mostly by small ensembles between a duet and a quartet and in some cases including additionally a string trio. A long list of musicians take part in these recordings. The second CD, subtitled “Illusion Suite”, is a seven-part continuous suite, performed by the duo, a sextet of instrumentalist, a quintet of electronicists and a string trio. The music is quite different on these two CDs, which is a wonderful surprise. “Circle Of Whispers” is almost completely “well behaved”, presenting Tippetts singing lyrics (sometimes with overdubs) and rarely using vocalese. The songs have clearly defined melody lines, often bordering on Rock, some with a subtle and sublime Jazzy arrangements and others with an ambient / electronics background, brilliantly supported by Archer on keyboards, B. J. Cole on guitar, Laura Cole on piano and other excellent instrumentalists. Listeners familiar with Tippetts extensive recording career will be fondly reminded of her early (post Pop) solo career, with albums like “Sunset Glow”. The entire album is absolutely fascinating from start to finish, and IMHO it is her strongest album in many years. Her vocal abilities are completely untouched by time and the creativity and imagination encapsulated in these songs are staggering. Hearing this music made me think that perhaps not all is lost in music yet. “Illusion Suite” is closer to the Avant-Garde side of the duo, with Tippetts still singing lyrics, but also using her voice (often overdubbed) in an instrumental capacity, singing extensive and not surprisingly breathtaking vocalese parts. The music is based on melodic themes, but is more open and improvised, as expected. One might define the suite as a concerto for multiple voices (sung by the same person) and electro-acoustic ensemble. The excellent rhythm section of bassist Seth Bennett and drummer Peter Fairclough manages to give the music a steady pulsating continuity, which helps the listen to follow the complex vocal and instrumental parts. Guitarist Anton Hunter, trombonist George Murray, vibraphonist Corey Mwamba and trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe are in charge of the instrumental ornamentation, with Archer omnipresent keyboards, woodwinds and electronics creating the “wall of sound” background. This is, what I call, quite a journey… Overall, this is a brilliant piece of composing, performing, songwriting and everything else involved in creating a true “magic carpet ride”, which takes the listener places he probably never dreamt of. A most welcome comeback from Tippetts, which always leaves me waiting for more… Bless you and thanks for this gift of music! - Adam Baruch http://www.adambaruch.com/reviews_item.asp?item=107021



The Illusion Suite consists of 1 song in 7 sections which follows the structure of a Dance/Disco/DJ mix with periodically the 140 bpm rhythm at the back, yet played by real musicians that gives it a jazzy feeling in an electronic jacket so to speak. Done very well, there is a lot to discover here if you want to check out something special that is hardly done before. CD 2 is titled Circle Of Whispers, and this is a rather unique sounding album of 13 songs that sounds like an experimental dark mix of jazz and progressive rock..... I am personally quite impressed by the sounds of that CD, because it has the aforementioned unique approach of connecting jazz and dance music in a completely new way.  - Strutter'zine



MARTIN ARCHER mag Frauenstimmen, zuletzt die von Carla Diratz, bei Combat Astronomy schon die von Elaine di Falco, und insbesondere liebt er den Gesang und die erstaunliche Poesie von JULIE TIPPETTS, bei „Fluvium“ (20029, „Ghosts of Gold“ (2009), „Tales of FiNiN“ (2011), „Serpentine“ (2012) und „Vestigium“ (2015). Illusion (Discus 131, 2xCD) spinnt das fort, mit einmal der 'Illusion Suite' als 75-min. Songscape und poetischvokalem Mirakel, gemixt aus Julie Tippetts Driscollness, den Klängen einer mit Drums, Kontrabass, E-Gitarre, Posaune, Vibraphon & Flöte, Trompete & Flügelhorn bestückten Band, eines Stringtrios mit Violine, Viola und Cello plus Archer an Keyboards, Electronics, Saxophones & Clarinets als Surfern auf einer zuerst gefertigten Woge aus Beats, Loops, Drones & Grinds, Textures, Melodies, Field Recordings & Wizardry. Tippetts besingt, wie sie da auf diesem noch mit nymphischer Vokalisation animiertem, von Vibes beperlten Jazztronica-Fluidum dahintreibt, dahingaloppiert, das Leben als Spiel, Illusion, Zirkus, Pandämonium, Zaubershow: That we were of a dream / And deemed to weld in / transformation... There are lessons in magic. / Tests in illogical. Sie singt, mehrstimmig, über Less- und Nothingness, reitet Pegasus ungesattelt, imaginiert sich selber beflügelt, My Pegaus reborn and I... We fly / Eos Aurora... We fly. Sie dreht und wendet Himmel und

Hölle, stülpt sie um und zitiert dazu 'The Clapping Song': Three, six, nine, the goose drank wine, The monkey chewed tobacco on the streetcar line... 'Circle of Whispers' knüpft direkt daran an, doch nun in Form von 13 Songs: 2 davon stimmt Tippetts nur zum Piano von Laura Cole an, 3 singer-songwriterisch und elektroverzaubert zu dritt mit Archer und BJ Cole an Pedal Steel bzw. Peter Fairclough an Drum Loop oder mit Nick Robinson an Akustikgitarre & Electronics und Seth Bennett an Kontrabass. Neben 'Illusion', 'Elephant Rider' und 'Fortune Teller' zu viert bringt ein 5-, 6- & 7-stimmiger Jazz-Rock-Reigen der üblichen Discus-Verdächtigen noch Anton Hunters E-Gitarre ins Spiel oder auch wieder Bratsche, Cello und, postum, die Geige von Paul Schatzberger (+2021). Denn die Aufnahmen haben

sich über 6 Jahre hingezogen, immer wieder unterbrochen durch Krankheit, Unfälle, Pech, Corona und insbesondere ja den Tod von Keith Tippett. Julie singt den 'Illusion'- Blues: I'm on the ground, but I'm suspended. / I've just begun, but it is ended. / I'm in trouble...trouble...trouble. Sie fliegt like Philippe Petit und seiltanzt 'Between Mountains', schwingt als Trapezakrobatin, reitet einen Elefanten, spitzentänzelt in der Luft, taucht als 'Aquabat' in der Tiefsee, ist sometimes alles Mögliche, doch always Illusion. Sie wundert sich über Schwertschlucken, zweifelt an Wahrsagerei, imaginiert sich als Raubtierbändigerin, als Ziel eines Messerwerfers dicing with death. Das Ganze ein schillernder Zirkus auf metaphorischer Ebene, allein vor dem Spiegel, zu zweit und als a life-style, als keepin' on, movin' on. Holding on. Wie auch ich, enticed by the spell! Als Graugänschen geprägt von „Open“ von Brian Auger and The Trinity, mit Julie Driscoll als einer Ikone meiner Pupertät. A spell was spun... A bond began to gel... over time.... A Master Work - Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY