37CD - Julie Tippetts & Martin Archer - Ghosts of Gold
A truly beautiful release - 10 of Julie's songs / poems in settings ranging from beats to pure abstraction.
Working with Martin always gives an inspiring kind of freedom within his extraordinary soundscapes. His structures on this album provide perfect settings for this selection of texts, drawn from an anthology of poetry written between 1994 - 2004, opening wide all doors with his particular flavour combinations, and yet indicating to me, almost instantly, the precise choice of poems for each piece. To use track 8 as an example, Martin brought this wonderful ingredient to the pot as an after-thought on our last day of recording. I went straight to the text, and within minutes was in front of the mic, and Rainsong was born. No rehearsal, no prior thought or decisions, and yet it gives the impression of being a structured composition. That's what I love about working in this way. The magic of the unexpected. - Julie Tippetts.
Most of the music for this collection was written and recorded by myself between mid 2007 - mid 2008. Julie matched texts to the music and recorded the vocal parts at my studio in the final part of 2008. I tried to write music for this CD which I believed would have some personal relevance for Julie rather than to write in the abstract and hope for the best. Looking back, I've been aware of Julie's music just as long as I've been aware of creative music. I distinctly remember borrowing a copy (on the original Neon label) of Septober Energy from someone's hip older brother while still at school, not registering that many of the players involved in this incredibly ambitious and joyful work were in reality not a whole lot older than I was. Then before very long I'd also heard the diametrically opposite Blueprint and Ovary Lodge albums, which helped me to learn that there was room for space and melody inside total improvisation, as well as jazz informed "chops" and extended technique playing. It was not until the 1980's that I first met Julie while I was promoting free improv concerts in Sheffield, and not until the 2000s did we make records together - Julie sang on both of my albums with Geraldine Monk, and also on my latest solo release In Stereo Gravity. One memorable aspect of this recording for me is that despite this being the first record of Julie's whose method is based substantially on software processing and editing (her previous Shadow Puppeteer was, amazingly, a virtuoso product of traditional tape editing!), she immediately "got" the possibilities of working in a virtual studio and seconds after completing each take behind the mic was seated next to me in front of the screen enthusiastically directing the editing and processing choices. Julie really is the best and most detailed editor of her own work I've ever worked with. I'm sure there will be more to come. - Martin Archer
Julie Tippetts - voice, percussion
Martin Archer - laptop, woodwind, keyboards etc
It takes nothing away from Martin Archer, a composer I admire greatly, if I suggest that Tippetts is the inspiration behind this record. And yet, it would be a lesser achievement without him. Archer is a collagist of rare skill. He seems able to create something piece by piece and allow it to unfold on its own terms. I’ve said it before but someone really should give the boy an orchestra for Xmas. Perhaps then his talent might get its due recognition. Here he sets Tippetts’ Gothic poems and songs inside exquisite and sometimes disturbing frames. Not once does he clutter the vision. Sometimes it’s sparse, as on Daydreams And Candle-Light or on Moonshine, just words with the instrumentation barely breathing behind. At others like on The Bear Walks At Night or Rainsong words and voice are given a powerful, echoing, industrial background. And when Tippetts sings, Archer draws out that wonderful, blues-tinged sound from her voice. This is the record that Tippetts always had in her and if I say it’s every bit as good as her Sunset Glow from 1976, then those that know will understand what praise that truly is. - Duncan Heining, JAZZWISE
Is this the New Arcadianism? Tippetts and Archer repossess some of the freedoms, not so much of line but of texture, that were lost when Englisg folk went sweet. On some songs, Archer finds sounds that resemble a hobnailed boot being drawn lightly over cobbles, back and forth to mark the pulse of the song. On Rainsong, something rattles through a can while sticks whing together scratchily. The laptop soundman's field day, filled with rough possibilities. There's death in Arcadia, of course, or at least the stretching of autumnal shadows. Tippets relies more on vibrato now than in years gone by, but instead of hinting at fading "technique" - here's a vocalist who never had to trade on anything as dull as mere "technique" - it suggests a steady chastening of vision that never becomes merely elegiac. It's a quality that lends many of these somg-poems a gently sinister edge. Spoken word can seem oddly timelocked, an echo of old "jazz & poetry" projects, but Archer has found a fresh bardic language for his collaborations with Tippetts (and with Geraldine Monk, see previous CDs). Breath sounds and mechanical sounds combine effortlessly; Tippetts speaks and sings with equal weight and resonance; jazz and folk and art song combine in a way that clinches the aesthetic born under Keith Tippett's stewardship at the old Rare Music Club. If these are the New Arcadians, welcome them with patience and warmth. They speak in a rough and elusive dialect. Best not understand them too quickly. - Brian Morton, WIRE
Another stalwart of UK improvised music (and more) is Sheffield's Martin Archer. Electro-acoustic music, improvisation, cut-up experiments, ensemble playing - who knows what we can expect from his next project? Apart from honesty, invention and high-quality music, that is. On Ghosts of Gold (DISCUS 37CD), he collaborates once again with Julie Tippetts, herself no less important a figure in the world of jazz and improvised music. Her songs and poems - half sung, half-recited - are set against strange musical backdrops provided by Archer, producing a total effect that's as close as we'll come to a 21st century Façade (William Walton and Edith Sitwell). Tippett's dense verbiage may appear heavy going at first, but I sense that it's laced with the same basic semi-supernatural pastoral and pagan imagery as you'll find on many an example of classic UK revivalist folk (Shirley Collins, The Young Tradition). If only the numerous listeners in the audience who profess their allegiance to contemporary "dark folk" would bend an ear to this CD, they might be pleasantly surprised. As to the overall sound of this weirdster, "uncanny" would not be too strong a word to describe the inventive and mysterious combinations Archer has pulled from his panoply of keyboards, woodwinds, electronics and percussion. As Ms Tippetts puts it, this is "the magic of the unexpected" - Ed Pinsent, SOUND PROJECTOR
This is not their first collaboration, but it is their first complete record as a duo. Julie Tippetts’ voice has aged pretty well: reciting or improvising, she is rapturing. As for Martin Archer, he’s an original in the noblest and most exciting meaning of the word. Everything he does is at least worth a listen, and often fascinating. He has a unique way of fiddling with electronics, adding sax, clarinet and violin to it, combining and arranging it all into something that recalls European free improvisation, delves into acousmatics, and draws inspiration from Soft Machine, all in one! This album is quieter than In Stereo Gravity (his latest solo release) and clearly constructed around Tippetts’ voice and poems. I’ve been singing Archer’s praise for years at the very least, listen to In Stereo Gravity (also featuring Tippetts) or Winter Pilgrim Arriving, but don’t miss on Ghosts of Gold, it’s...gold! - Francois Couture, DELIRE
Beautiful - HIBOU, ANEMONE & BEAR
The tracks maintain spontaneity even when structurally complex, re-layered, and with substantial re-editing; the spoken parts show musical qualities and sometimes change colour and turn to singing, which, naturally, is unequalled. - Alessandro Achille, MUSICA JAZZ
Archer's studio savvy and and imaginative electronics place Tippetts in musical situations unlike anything she has previously embraced.....Her voice becomes part of the arrangements too, multiplied and blended with Archer's electroacoustic soundscapes to create evocative contexts for her words, vivid yet strange, like scenes viewed in moonlight. - Julian Cowley, WIRE
Tippett's organic fluidity contrasts with Archer's digitised dreamscapes, suggesting a pagan Portishead. - Stewart Lee, SUNDAY TIMES
British vocalist Julie Tippetts' teaming with eminent jazz-rock keyboardist Brian Auger dates back to the late 1960s, featuring her minor-classic covers of works by Bob Dylan and Donovan, among other little gems. Moving forward, she's become a prominent exponent of the European experimental circuit, largely enveloped within her homeland's free-jazz scene.
With Ghosts Of Gold, she aligns with the always adventurous, avant-garde and free form artiste Martin Archer, here performing on an arsenal of keys, guitars, percussion instruments, woodwinds and other implements of the trade. Archer composed the music between 2007 and 2008, followed by Tippetts poetic text overlays. In a loose sense, the program might be akin to a collection of bizarre fairytales treated with abstract musical treatments. Nonetheless, the album defies rigid classification, which is a good thing. Archer's quaint electronics, bells and a rhythmic heartbeat provide a fluid backdrop for Tippetts spoken word and offbeat scat maneuvers on "Moonshine," while in other regions of scope and sound, the duo ventures into space-rock territory amid ethereal overtones, dappled with the vocalist's bluesy verse and avant, thumb piano progressions. Uncannily entertaining and intriguing, Archer adds a cinematic flavor to these pieces via his layered synth motifs and otherworldly treatments, but executes a free jazz sax-drenched Vibe atop Tippetts' recitals during "Parchment Dust." The duo generates a consortium of polytonal sound-sculpting passages, coated with mood-evoking sentiment and endearing, dreamlike escapades. Continuous sparks of ingenuity serve as the underlying force throughout. - Glenn Astarita ALL ABOUT JAZZ
With his base in Sheffield Martin Archer has been the driving force behind the record label Discus and the style of music at Discus is unique to him. The music is characterised by a fertile interaction of acoustic and electronically manipulated sound material. Archer's original repertoire of instruments consisted of wind instruments but now embraces a whole range of sound sources including, in particular, the laptop. Julie Tippetts, known to some by her maiden name, Julie Driscoll, is one of the UK's most foremost and most creative singers. Tippetts, who is married to the pianist Keith Tippett (without an s, sic!) has been very much involved in the new music scene. She also has a poetic streak and poems from her anthology form the basis of the lyrics for this captivating album. You need a lot of time and patience to understand the lyrics but the acoustic value of the words is enough in itself. She sings and recites while Archer produces his sound portraits. The music is sensitive, symbolic and, with the sound of a heart-beat, very suggestive. The tracks are played with rhythmic precision giving them a dramatic character as if in a fairytale. It is colourful, subtle and magical. Archer's original sound is a little reminiscent of the musical experiments of the Californian band The Hub. - JAZZ SPECIAL
Two distinct strands wonderfully interwoven: Martin Archer weaving his sound scapes and Julie Tippetts speaking and singing the lyrics. The juxtaposition of the unexpected conjures up, and illuminates, a distinct and bizarre world. For me, it is redolent of the work of Tolkien although, in truth, the music is too full of humour to be properly elfin* and too ethereal for hobbits or dwarves. So, of this world, but otherworldly in the perfection that it achieves, whether this is by luck or fate. Small wonder then that, in the sleeve notes, Julie Tippett makes reference to the 'magic of the unexpected. ' I quickly stopped reading the printed notes on the sleeve because it's the sound of the language that is so arresting; it gives parity to Tippett's voice and to the instruments and implements used by Archer. Archer's magical vibrations combine effortlessly with the rhythm of the spoken word, which envelopes, and is enveloped by, the music. Julie Tippet moves from spoken word to song, just for the thrill of it. Archer draws on an extensive arsenal of musical instruments which he uses effortlessly: his musical world is all-encompassing. This is a very beautiful studio work. Listening to Tippett and Archer is a pleasure and then there's the added delight of the orchestra, integrated via judicious re-recording. - IMPROJAZZ
A good storyteller can hold you spellbound even when there's not much of a story. That's the case with the ambitious melding of texts and music on Julie Tippetts and Martin Archer's Ghosts of Gold. Tippetts' poems have (no) compelling narrative arc. Yet, the texts' phonic flora has alluring color and scent when spoken or sung by Tippetts. After all, the agenda is to evoke a world, not detail its geology or categorize its insects. Ghosts of Gold was conjured and constructed in the studio. Tippetts and Archer's collaboration is built upon Tippetts' choice of text, to which Archer plies woodwinds, strings, keyboards, percussion and laptop-generated textures. Archer deftly sequences sound events and thematic materials. Granted, Archer has a far vaster palette by virtue of technology; but Archer uses such conventional building blocks as long tones and motives. On paper, Archer's construction methods are at odds with Tippetts' long-stated preference for spontaneous collective music-making. However, Tippetts is fully engaged, which is really the bottom line. Tippetts has a singular magnetism even while reciting the texts, which is crucial given that she sings infrequently. Beyond their immediate appeal, Madeleine Dreams* and Ghosts of Gold serve as guideposts for similar interdisciplinary collaborations. What's most encouraging about these projects is that they were conceived and realized far removed from the demographically obsessed, audience outreach-driven scrum for grant monies. They are both labors of love, which is why they both succeed. -Bill Shoemaker POINT OF DEPARTURE
* Album by Tyler Ho Bynum reviewed alongside Ghosts of Gold
I remember Julie Tippetts from her earliest works, as Julie Driscoll (a solo album with progressive jazz leanings and lead vocals and a fine album with Brian Auger & The Trinity) before she married jazz musician Keith Tippet and changed her name and direction towards more improvised (jazz related and expanded jazz) music. This latest album shows experience in improvisation on the moment. Not one track was rehearsed and still it gives the impression of well thought over compositions and ideas. The setting for this album was an anthology of poetry written between 1994 and 2004 and the spontaneity between soundscape-like moody ideas, -Martin Archer's lead mostly-, and certain vocal expressions and extra arrangements with voice and instruments and the choice of poems by Julie Tippetts. The soundscapes could be based upon natural and vivid electronica with sequences or sounds and laptop-arranged percussive like accents or sound-based moody improvisations by different saxophones or ideas derived from fuzz bass or from resonating metal string-base percussion or so, and for the last track a great Chinese-sounding odd harmonies-driven combination of instruments (harmonium with recorders and such ??). The vocal interpretations are rather whispery spoken word, often with stretched words here and there creating a more musical approach with words, breathing into the vivid sound landscape. But on two tracks Julie is actually singing, soulful and with moody overdub of what sounds like backing vocalists. A truly entertaining, rather meditative release. On the edge of a visual abstract world as a recognisable expression. - PROGRESSIVE MUSIC REVIEW
Decidedly marked by the rebellious and libertarian spirit of its predecessors (from AMM to Nurse with Wound, passing through Slapp Happy, Henry Cow or Art Bears), the music of Martin ARCHER is nonetheless free from any influence. Originating from a rich and diversified avant-garde culture (contemporary music, experimental electronics, trip-hop and European improvisation), this English multi-instrumentalist, also a collector of environmental sounds, has never stopped experimenting and comparing his experience, working with an instrumental pallet that varies according to musical context. Within "Ghosts of Gold'', ARCHER develops a musical substrate based on layers of synthesiser, piano, laptop, tape recorder, sopranino, alto and baritone saxophones, bass clarinet, harmonium, violin, guitar, bass guitar, percussion and drums, thus accomplishing a veritable masterpiece of electronic acoustics that gives this recording all its structure and, especially, its poetic power. Julie TIPPETTS, (Spontaneous Music Ensemble, Keith Tippett Centipede, Ovary Lodge, Voice and the Ark etc.) is perfectly at ease here in this style where the music is constructed around her singing: spoken, whispered and sung voices, and readings of her poems. ARCHER and the singer had already met during a trio session with Geraldine Monk between 2000 and 2002, for the recording of the beautiful "Fluvium", which has already appeared on the Discus label.
The poems of Julie TIPPETTS, written between 1994 and 2004 and teased by ARCHER, give an autonomous and streamlined existence to each of these pieces. Entirely designed for her leading voice, which is particularly marvellous on the weightless songs, the writing of ARCHER always remains very carefully produced and rigorous, dressed up in meticulous arrangements. Fifty-six minutes of magical moments sprinkled with chants in pearly blue asceticism, a few piano notes in suspension, quivering drums and often archaic electronic tones. This assembly of luminous haïkus lives in harmony with this music which is equally introspective and contemplative. The musical sequence brings to mind a river crossing landscapes, a current that naturally brings with it different elements where the diverted echo of a bass clarinet mingles, where an insistent synthetic rhythm is fractured. … A sensation of intimacy, of proximity to the voice of the emotion and physical presence of Julie TIPPETTS, characterises the whole of the recital, with its strong tempos, lulls and moments of grace. It results in a totally homogenous, powerful and original work, fashioned with passion and patience, the privileged witness of the artistic experience of (almost) a lifetime. - Théo JARRIER - REVUE & CORRIGEE
On his 2008 double-disk In Stereo Gravity, Martin Archer's collaboration with singer Julie Tippetts appeared to be a good fit for both parties, with Archer's sound collages an effective foil for Tippetts' vocal experimentation - and vice versa. This new release, again on Archer's Discus label, extends the collaboration over the entire program and is also notable for moving beyond the "found poetry" of the earlier material, where Tippetts was using nonsensical spam messages that Archer had lifted from junk email texts. Instead, on Ghosts of Gold, Tippetts brings her own poetry to the session, which according to the CD notes she wrote and collected between 1994 and 2004. There's no indication one way or the other that Tippetts has published any of these poems previously, but even a cursory examination of the printed lyrics indicates that she has substantial poetic abilities.
The poems all have an underlying Gothic quality and many of them display whimsical macabre touches reminiscent of Edward Gorey, e.g., "When the gang green grass/Under shell-shot shutters/Round the trippy-toed trembles/Through the glittering glass…." (This from "Run Another Road," which appears to be narrated from the point of view of a witch). However, other poems are more serious in nature - some dealing with the vaguely anthropomorphic mutation of elemental forces ("Metamorphic Rocking"), others with small but hard-won emotional victories ("Moonshine," "Daydreams and Candlelight") and at least several with torment and madness ("The Winging," "The Ghostly Apparition"). Regarding the latter two pieces especially, a delicate balance is struck between humor and horror.
Archer makes his own substantial contribution to the proceedings, laying down tracks in advance which Tippetts then selected in the studio as appropriate backing for her chosen poems. Some poems are narrated quite precisely (e.g., "Metamorphic Rocking"), others sung or chanted (e.g., "Moonshine," "Run Another Road") and in several other pieces, poetic narration and singing/chanting are combined, e.g., "The Bear That Walks At Night") Archer's sound collages are made up of treated keyboards, saxophones, clarinets, harmoniums, xylophones and thumb pianos and include eerie drones, staccato bursts, fluttering arrhythmic filigrees and even the occasional rhythmic jazz/rock or techno pulse ("The Bear That Walks At Night, ""Rainsong"). His typical studio wizardry extends to multi-tracking and other effects applied to Tippetts' voice, sometimes creating the effect of a Greek chorus commenting on the primary text.
The artistic level of the collaboration between Archer and Tippetts is light years beyond the standard song lyrics set to music or spoken poetry supported by a few gratuitous sonic embellishments. It's a true synthesis of sound and music, with the interaction between the two constantly shifting from piece to piece and even within individual pieces. No apparent formula being imposed upon the material; each piece is allowed to find its own shape. The quality of the recording and mixing is also spot on, with Tippetts close-miked for a clean, crisp vocal quality which showcases her expressive abilities as reader. All in all, it's a outstanding creative effort and all the more impressive when one reflects that Ms. Tippetts (as Julie Driscoll) began her professional career many years ago as a celebrated pop singer and fashion item who the British tabloids famously designated as "The Face"). Obviously, Tippetts is an artist who pursues her own creative muse without regard for the marketplace. As does Archer, although I don't think he was ever regarded as similarly photogenic. - Bill Tilland, SONOMU
Archer's next collaboration with Julie Tippets is a stripped down, subdued and ethereal affair. "Ghosts of Gold" (Discus 37) is Archer's musical interpretation of Tippetts' poems written between 1994 and 2004. With joint billing, and in control of her own lyrics, Tippetts' contribution on "Ghosts of Gold" is very much more to the fore than on "In Stereo Gravity". As we are talking poetry, much of this is spoken word, which occasionally enters the realm of "Summer Time"-style light jazz, and (very) occasionally she lets rip with what sounds like quite dextrous vocal exercises. Over 56 minutes, though, it all begins to sound a tad self-indulgent and in need of some editing. A slow burner and I dare say a grower. - TERRASCOPE
Martin Archer, British veteran of unconventional jazz, whose interests reach from improvisation through aesthetics of the Rock in opposition, music ready-mades and extensive use of electronics, has re-joined the singer Julie Tippetts on his new album. For the first time she features in a position of an equal partner, not only guest vocalist. Julie Tippetts came into prominence in the 60´s when under the original name of Julie Driscoll, she performed and recorded with keyboard player Brian Auger. Nowadays she works mostly with her husband Keith. On the album Ghosts of Gold, she is the writer of all of the lyrics and together with Archer co-author of the music. The only exception from twelve songs is Remember, which she has co-written with Keith. The album is a successful symbiosis of approach of both participants, whose peculiar music languages are harmonically intertwined in a long sonic kiss. Apart from woodwind instruments (saxophones, clarinets, flutes) Archer uses a synthesizer, harmonium, guitar, bass-guitar, drums, violins, as well as laptop. Tippet plays balinese xylophone and small percussion instruments and she partly sings and partly recites her lyrics saturated with natural poetry. She reminds us a little bit of the folk music of the 60´s, a little bit of modern work of singer Clodagh Simmonds (vulgo Fovea Hex), and sometimes Windy (from a two-some Windy & Carl), here and there of Björk and also of Irena Havlova. Her introvertive world is wrapped in focused, non-flamboyant sounds of Archer´s colourful arsenal, which are not trampled out at all. His electronics sizzle and are strangely catchy hybrids of trip-hop and laptop noises and they often serve as a fundamental rhythmic figure of the compositions - echoed on heavy beat. But before all, there is always something happening in the dense grass of sounds, the grains are rattling, clarinet is bubbling, the bells are clinking, the harmonium is squeaking drone accompanied with a violin, double vocal traces are having a dialogue, lonely tones are the most prominent aspect, and the backbone of the music itself. Archer´s work has always got an anomalous atmosphere, dragging, acute, full of small treasures and colours. His conjoint album with Julie Tippets will catch the interest of not only lovers of all the above mentioned personalities, whose names I have piled up as a pile of scented autumn leaves (and, yes, the autumn is a perfect time for listening to this album), but also the fans of utmost, self-made, bizarre folk music. Archer and Tippetts are able to conjure up a similar atmosphere, but what´s more, it is all based on respectable composer-musician foundations accompanied by the perfect sound. - Petr Ferenc, hisVOICE
With "Ghosts Of Gold", Julie Tippetts aligns with the always adventurous, avant-garde and free form artiste Martin Archer, here performing on an arsenal of keys, guitars, percussion instruments, woodwinds and other implements of the trade.
Archer composed the music between 2007 and 2008, followed by Tippetts poetic text overlays. In a loose sense, the program might be akin to a collection of bizarre fairytales treated with abstract musical treatments. Nonetheless, the album defies rigid classification, which is a good thing. Archer's quaint electronics, bells and a rhythmic heartbeat provide a fluid backdrop for Tippetts spoken word and offbeat scat maneuvers on "Moonshine," while in other regions of scope and sound, the duo ventures into space-rock territory amid ethereal overtones, dappled with the vocalist's bluesy verse and avant, thumb piano progressions.
Uncannily entertaining and intriguing, Archer adds a cinematic flavor to these pieces via his layered synth motifs and otherworldly treatments, but executes a free jazz sax-drenched vibe atop Tippetts' recitals during "Parchment Dust." The duo generates a consortium of polytonal sound-sculpting passages, coated with mood-evoking sentiment and endearing, dreamlike escapades. Continuous sparks of ingenuity serve as the underlying force throughout. PICCADILLY RECORDS ONLINE