128CD - Ron Caines / Martin Archer Axis - Port Of Saints - CD plus download

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Description

Port Of Saints is the third collaboration between Archer and Caines - all compositions by Caines with arrangements and production by Archer. This time around the 14 pieces have been edited into three long suites, and a careful listener will hear thematic links running all the way through the album. Caines takes centre stage throughout with the other musicians carefully arranged to provide a shifting and sometimes almost orchestral setting. Breaking with the group's tradition, whereas previous albums have featured Laura Cole's piano, this time round chordal parts from Chris Sharkey (guitar) and and Corey Mwamba (vibes) are edgier and darker. Electronics have always been a feature of the group - on Port Of Saints Martin, Chris and Corey all use electronics to extend their sounds, alongside Hervé's radical post production interventions. We're delighted to welcome Byron Wallen as featured soloist on this record, and Graham Clark returns on violin for some telling interventions. Johnny Hunter underpins the group with detailed work on drums, which Gus Garside's darkly atmospheric bass provides a considered commentary. Very much not a blowing band and more an electroacoustic suite.....

 

Cast in order of appearance:

Ron Caines – soprano, alto & tenor saxophones, kalimba & small percussion
Johnny Hunter – drums
Gus Garside – bass
Martin Archer – baritone & ensemble saxophones,
organ, Rhodes, electronics
Hervé Perez - soundscapes, processing, electronics
Chris Sharkey – guitar & electronics
Byron Wallen – trumpet
Graham Clark – violin
Ben Higham – tuba
Corey Mwamba – vibraphone & electronics

Reviews

The third collaboration between Caines and Archer under their Axis moniker is quite the corker. Archer’s Discus imprint continues to push the envelope in ways that defy easy analysis, where categorical boundary lines cease to exist, and one simply surrenders to each release’s idiosyncratic nature. This latest is no exception. Caines’s tenure in 70s prog rock eccentrics East of Eden belie a curiously awry take on jazz idioms as pressed through numerous British psychedelic filters, and, alongside the guidance of Archer and their illustrious bandmates, his more avantist impulses are given the freedom to spread its wings and soar. The duo are joined by the enigmatic vibist and electronics manipulator Corey Mwamba, frequent partner Herve Perez, whose sonic alchemy and warped aural processing knows no equal, drummer Johnny Hunter, trumpeter Byron Wallen, bassist Gus Garside, guitarist Chris Sharkey, Graham Clark on violin, and tuba player Ben Higham, all of whose contributions bring formidable flavors to the tonal spectrum that blossoms across three lengthy suites. Imagine the AACM contingent crossing paths with Keith Tippett’s Centipede, injected with a healthy dose of contemporary electronic sound design, and you’ll get some feel for the diverse breadth of Axis’s multi-dimensional constructs. Initially, it’s obvious that Caines's and Archer’s sax volleys are leading the charge, their probing voices waxing Lester Bowie funereal procession one moment, warping Dadaist blues the next, and tumbling down some thorny rabbit holes thereafter. Accompanying these constantly shifting loci are any of a dozen glorious accents telling their own wondrous stories: Mwamba’s vibes roughly halfway through “Suite 2” erupting in acidic drizzles, spackling the terrain; Sharkey’s diamond-sharp guitar interlocutions; Hunter’s percussive walkabout suggesting ever-evolving landscapes as they underscore the indiscriminate digital splashes and scree posited by…Perez? Archer? It’s unclear in that regard who’s responsible for what, but the inexplicable nature of the resultant cascade of sounds never deters from its sleight of hand. The future of ‘big band’ is right here, folks, rendered in superb high definition via the praxis of Axis. - Darren Bergstein, Downtown Music Gallery NYC

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Such a beautiful and uplifting record, filled with hope. - Comment from a Discus customer

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Never judge a book by its cover, okay but before ever I caught audio of Port Of Saints I spent eye-time on the Susan Caines cover, Petite Afrique, a painted wonder-boat seeping surf in darkness. The whole artwork is a torrent of silent sea.  There’s also a monochrome of Ron Caines surrounded by recording mics. He’s poised over a curved soprano nurturing a score on its stand; sound comes through the picture, the eyes hear it.  Port Of Saints is a perfect pitch in the depth of oceans. Three suites, the first with six movements, the second and third with four movements each; throughout all fourteen pieces it’s Ron Caines’ three horns that lead the line. I’m not going to trot out all my Ron Caines knowledge.  There was a time in my life when he lived in Bristol and I used to regularly catch his gigs. That was then, this is now. He’s made a trio of recordings for Discus, Port Of Saints is number three and though the previous two were cut diamonds, Saints is the boundary breaker; in large part down to the improv-orchestrated arrangements of the Martin Archer Axis.  Composure in compositions emanates from Caines, cradled in the woven storytelling of Chris Sharkey (guitar), Corey Mwamba (vibraphone), Bryon Wallen (trumpet), all spun on electronic post-production.  It sounds as if it feeds on tidal currents of musical wave power.  Caines-music maps neo-impressionism just like the cover-art. A painting of a boat but equally it could be something else.  And the music too is ephemeral yet at the same time extremely specific.  One of the pieces is named after Philip Guston.  The work of the Canadian painter contains cornered brilliance, reflected in the visual art of The Caines Couple – this short audio dedication on Port Of Saints cuts it close too.  Another very ‘specific’ impression is the penultimate track on the third suite, Endgame - a full-on mesh of pumping air with overdubbed electrics. The final four minutes is the intense Note Chain; Ron Caines summing up everything that has gone before in a stir pool of audio equality.  Take me to this sea Port Of Saints and listen to the wealth of currency in the water.  Thank you guys. - Steve Day, March 2022

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The latest by the collaborative project of Brighton-based saxophonist Caines, and Sheffield multi-instrumentalist and Discus label boss Archer, extends the methodology of their previous two albums. Caines concise, Ornette-ish melodic sketches form an authoritative nucleus, performed with a relaxed, unshowy sense of freedom by a core unit including bassist Gus Garside and drummer Johnny Hunter.  Archer not only arranges these somewhat introspective doodles but also edits, mixes and sequences them, stringing together short individual pieces to build larger, more expansive suites. There's an impressive range of moods on display, among which fans of Archer's hefty back catalogue will recognise some of his key obsessions: vibes, violin and scattered percussion suggest a date recorded for the AACM: gnarled electric guitar and punchy horns nod tot he jazz rock of late-1960s bands such as Colosseum or even Caines' old outfit East Of Eden. At the same time, the generous application of electronic effects suggests richly imagined sonic universes - from sub-aquatic depths to avian, tree-top twittering. But, no matter how far the session roams, Caines' quietly determined lyricism provides a cohering central voice. Simple yet arresting themes tumble from his horn in a generous stream of invention, seemingly oblivious to the chaos around him.  - Daniel Spicer, JAZZWISE

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Caines has always been a great map reader ("Mercator Projected") to explore the surreal corners of the Northern Hemisphere. With Archer & Axis, he has already triangulated the painterly and mythical with his own past in "Les Oiseaux De Matisse" (2018) and "Dream Feathers" (2020), which he had previously extended into an idiosyncratic present in Brighton as a painter in the postmodernist waters of de Chirico, Giorgio Morandi and Matisse and in playing with Keith Tippett, Evan Parker and the Brighton Musicians Collective. With the streamlined reeds, the feeling, the colorful refinements and the incessantly morphing flow, Axis paints a dream of the wind and the ocean currents with a psychedelic brush. - Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY

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Musical careers can take very different routes, like Ron Caines, who played in prog rock band East of Eden at the end of the 60s(!) on the first two influential albums of this band from Bristol. Subsequently, he was active in the local improv scene for many years and performed with Steve Lacy, Keith Tippett’s Ark, a.o. In 1995 he stopped and concentrated on painting. Since 2008 however, he is again active as a musician. Around 2018 when he was already in his 70s, Caines started working with Martin Archer as Axis, resulting in the albums ‘Les Oiseaux De Matisse album art’(2018) and ‘Dream Feathers’ (2020). A fruitful collaboration that now is marked by the third album with compositions by Caines and performed by: Hervé Perez (soundscapes, processing, electronics), Chris Sharkey (guitar, electronics), Byron Wallen (trumpet), Graham Clark (violin), Ben Higham (tuba), Corey Mwamba (vibraphone, electronics), Johnny Hunter (drums), Gus Garside (bass), Ron Caines (soprano, alto & tenor saxophones) and Martin Archer (baritone & Ensemble Saxophones, Organ, Rhodes, Electronics). A more extended lineup as on the first two recordings with Sharkey, Wallen, Higham and Mwamba as new participators. They perform 14 tracks that are grouped in three suites. All three of them are organic and meandering unities that came into being by intensive editing and processing by Perez. Besides Perez, Sharkey, Archer and Mwamba add electronic textures to the acoustic interplay. The suites work as open and spatial excursions with a focus and sense of direction. The music is built from ledoci material, has a slightly psychedelic touch and continues in a friendly multi-coloured flow. - Dolf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY http://www.vitalweekly.net/

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With "Port Of Saints" Ron Caines (a long time ago at East Of Eden) and Martin Archer, the duo Axis, present their third album, again at Discus Music from Sheffield. A sweeping, three-part suite can be found on the well-filled album, which moves stylistically in similar paths to its direct predecessor (see "Dream Feathers") and therefore offers a virtuoso mixture in the border area of jazz, free rock, retro Canterbury, free sound tinkering and electronics.  The material was again composed by Caines, whose saxophones (soprano, alto and tenor) are also the tonal focus of the pieces. The whole thing was then arranged, enriched and prepared by Martin Archer, taking into account the various contributions of the other musicians. The ensemble has been slightly changed and expanded, which has led to a slightly different tonal composition. Thus, "Port Of Saints" is probably the most sonorous and expansive work by Axis to date.  Jazzy and big-band-like conglomerates sound here, interwoven and supplemented by all sorts of electronic webs, which usually waft around in the background, but sometimes also work their way forward hissing, echoing, chirping and wheezing. A few nature sounds (water noise e.B.) can also be seen from time to time. Quite a lot of percussion can also be heard, especially the bell-like reverberating, sometimes electronically alienated sounds of Corey Mwamba. The electric guitar sometimes provides rock yelling, while the violin and horns sometimes move in the direction of chamber music. Rarely does the music roar up edgy, there are oblique outbursts and angular noise.  Actually, I can freely repeat my conclusion to the predecessor here: "Port Of Saints" is a nice album for the jazz-savvy Avantprog or Canterbury adept, who has no aversions to electronic contamination. Produced in a very voluminous and detailed manner, the disc opens up new facets of sound with every listening run. - Achim Breiling, Babyblaue Seiten http://www.babyblaue-seiten.de/album_20293.html#oben

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Port of Saints is the third collaboration between saxophonists Ron Caines and Martin Archer and the Axis ensemble. Caines is in the spotlight most of the time whilst the environment transforms around him: densely-textured ensembles jostle evocations of blues, New Orleans processions (with richly-coloured harmonies from the reeds and brass) and a touch of calypso, and fugitive snatches of melody rise to the surface: one phrase seems to evoke a ghostly visitation from Richard Rodgers’s “If I Loved You.” Mostly, though, it’s free and fairly abstract (including some splendidly ferocious baritone sax) building to an intense climax with “Endgame”. - Barry Witherndon, BBC MUSIC

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