135CD - Army Of Briars - Made From A Broken Star - CD plus downloadTweet
Progressive songwriting in the finest tradition.
All of us will have been present when a live band suddenly fuses into a miraculous torrent. The great thing about Army of Briars is that they seem to be able to create that sense of live miracle while working separately in different locations, and sending their contributions to be mixed together at Discus Music Studio. This covid-enforced approach to their new release, Made From A Broken Star, has resulted in music that feels live, and a band that feels united. This is hugely down to the voices of Tim & Julie Cole, vulnerable, honest, warm, pure, and the series of beautiful and strange melodies that the group has created for them, making a cycle of ballads and spells. The material ranges from stark, ghostly chant across to gentle folk confessional, via one or two Ivor Cutler moments and some passionate jazz, and together amounts to a single story of magic, witness, praise and flight. This is the tale of a shaman exiled in the harsh present, seeking a way back to the green world. And finding it. Keith Jafrate’s imagistic nature poems take the listener through multiple worlds, past, present, interior and exterior, all focused on a kind of radiant connectedness. The music inhabits them like wind in a great tree, sounding out their intricate forms. Despite the range of styles, the songs have a strong narrative cohesion, and the album is a cathartic journey through, and into, the landscape.
Julie Cole – voice
Tim Cole – voice, guitars, cello on 3
Martin Archer – woodwind, keyboards, electronics
Keith Jafrate – words, voice on 15
Paul Taylor – grand piano
Peter Sells – bass guitar
Martin Pyne – drums, percussion, vibraphone
string orchestra and quartet
Natalie Purton – violins and violas
Liz Hanks - cello
Considering that I don’t get a chance to hear very many new records with singers, I do appreciate the change of pace. With Ms. Cole singing lead and Mr. Jafrate writing most of the lyrics, there is an older, quaint, folk rock sound here that I find most enchanting. Ms. Cole has a lovely, charming voice, which is subtly surrounded by strings, woodwinds, piano and sympathetic rhythm team. “Arbor Low” begins with a chorus of warm, sublime vocals and is soon joined by the strings and Mr. Archer’s fine clarinet. Tim Cole sings lead on “The Green Man” and he also has a most charming forlorn voice which is delightfully backed by Mr. Archer’s quaint reeds (soprano sax?). The title song, “Made from a Broken Star”, is most exquisite and is arranged by Mr. Archer who seems to be playing a mellotron or something similar (sampled reeds?). I must admit that I am a big and longtime fan of this sort of elegant, softly majestic folk/pop. If you are a fan of Speed the Plough or Dead Can Dance or Steeleye Span, then this disc should make you feel better. It is soothing and softly mesmerizing. It is too bad that more folks won’t get a chance to hear this gem, it could make them feel better, calmer perhaps. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Galley NYC
A lovely, uplifting collection of songs. Recommended. - Jack Porcello, File Under Popular. WAYO 104.3FM
It has been a long time since the previous Army Of Briars release; sixteen years to be precise, but it does feel as though they have never been away. Coalescing around the quartet of Julie and Tim Cole, Martin Archer and lyricist Keith Jafrate, they ply their unique blend of folk, jazz and impressionist abstraction on Made From A Broken Star, leaving the worries of the day-to-day world behind, and revelling in the joys and surprises that nature has to offer. Keith’s poetic words here are lovely and thoughtful descriptions of nature’s solitude and definitely suit the ageless purity of Julie’s voice, which is the only constant through this intriguing mix of seventeen pieces that veer wildly in style from one track to the next. The autumnal nature of the album is evoked by the melancholy piano and hidden shoots of percussion that accompany Julie on opener “To William Blake”. Blake is a good pointer for some of Keith’s imagery, but his love of the countryside and for the more esoteric elements of rural existence make for a more interesting ride. Some tracks hint at folk, but there is far more going on with a particular use of woodwind on “Go Song” and the slow sweep of strings courtesy of Natalie Purton and Liz Hanks. Some pieces have Julie harmonising with herself and I couldn’t help but be briefly reminded of Miranda Sex Garden. However, Julie’s cut-glass enunciation and observational distance inhabit their own frozen ground universe; while in contrast to Julie’s voice, Tim’s has an affecting frailty that injects a different power into the words. There is something ageless about his guitar accompaniment on “The Green Man”, with the line “All who pass my way are changed” being particularly moving. It is extraordinary on listening to the album to discover that this was all recorded remotely and then pieced together by Martin in the studio, as it does feel as though the various players are interacting naturally with one another. It seems that the more that time progresses, the more difficult it will be to differentiate between remote recordings and those where the group are playing together. There are no complaints here though, because if the quality of the output is akin to this then the possibilities are endless. The quartet was also fortunate to have assistance from pianist Paul Taylor, who lends some jazzy cascades to a few of the pieces and some melancholy introspection to others, but always allowing the differing vocal structures to take precedence. It is all dependent on Keith’s scanning which, like the best of poetry, only follows what the words demand. Where the words lead so texture follows; there is slow unfurling discord in places and in others just the simplicity of frail voice and guitar. Double-tracked voices trade with scattered percussion courtesy of Martin Pyne on the mysterious “Birdflight”, while his vibraphone adds further abstraction to the spectre-like lilt and haunting motifs of “Flight Flower”. When Tim and Julie duet, there is a kind of magic that the differing styles exude, and you might not expect a throaty sax workout to appear; but it roars in on the penultimate “In Part Two”, just to keep you guessing. The ambient reprise that ends the album loops right back to the beginning and is a perfect way to see the disc out. Made From A Broken Star may have been sixteen years in the making, but it is well with the wait. - Mr Olivetti, FREQ https://freq.org.uk/reviews/army-of-briars-broken-star/
Avant Rock, Improv Jazz, Electric Jazz, Electronic, Poetry & Songs, typisch Discus ist einzig eine allenfalls durch den Bezug auf Sheffield dominierte Vielfalt. Aber Poesie, wie die von Dylan Thomas bei Mesons „The Tao of Cwmdonkin Drive“, und Gesang – Sylwia Anna Drwal bei Mzylkypop, Jan Todd als Frostlake, Carla Diratz bei The Archers Of Sorrow, Julie Tippetts zuletzt einmal mehr bei „Illusion“ - , dafür ist Martin Archer doch ganz besonders zu haben. So auch mit ARMY OF BRIARS bei Made from a Broken Star (DISCUS 135CD), mit Lyrics von Keith Jafrate, gesungen von Julie & Tim Cole, der die Melodien ersonnen hat und Akustikgitarre spielt, während Archers Woodwinds, Keyboards & Electronics noch mit Strings, Piano, Bassgitarre und von Martin Pyne mit Drums, Vibraphon, Rasseln, Glockenspiel 'orchestriert' sind. Jafrate, der mit The Word Hoard das Huddersfield Poetry Festival organisiert hat und selber Musik macht mit Orfeo 5 und Wolf Scarers, stellt William Blake als Ikone an den Beginn und ans Ende und führt, wie so viele Albionkinder vor ihm, hin zu grünen Horizonten und in geheime Gärten. Hungrig nach dem bread of living, mit dem Ohr für grass hymns, dem Auge für 'The Green Man'. Mit Blake-Spirit kontrastiert ertheatres of soot und the town...in grey and black mit the meadow's green tongues und a roof of feather-light slow rain. Naturfromm ringt er um Worte, die der Farbigkeit, der Flüchtigkeit, der Unvergänglichkeit der Natur würdig sind. Birdflight beats in the heart of each song, den Julie C. mit blumenmädchenhaftem Sopran anstimmt und Tim C. als 'Orpheus in the Undergrowth' mit David-Tibet-Timbre. Der ganze Zauber von Sandy Denny, Jacqui McShee, Vashti Bunyan nochmal als Regenbogen und kiss of particles in love with time. Das ist Folk Music höchstens dann, wenn man Mauersegler und Birken mit zum Volk zählt, und dann wären 'Birdflight' und 'Flight Flower' immer noch ausgenommen als extraordinäre Art songs von Archer, der mit der Natur auf goldenem Fuß steht. - Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY
Army of Briars is a collaboration of Julie Cole (voice), Tim Cole (voice, guitars, songwriter), Martin Archer (woodwinds, keyboards, electronics) and Keith Jafrate (lyrics). Archer needs no introduction, but Jafrate is new to me. He is a saxophonist and poet who worked in the 90s as a member of the jazz-poetry trio Sang, followed by Orfeo in 2002. Later, he led his jazz quintet Urburo. From what I can trace, he is mainly working as a poet nowadays. Julie and Tim Cole have operated as folk-duo The Coles already for many years, performing traditional folk and their folk songs, accompanying their vocals with guitars, cello and tin whistle. In 2005 they started working with Martin Archer (woodwinds, keyboards, electronics) and Keith Jafrate (lyrics); this opened a new chapter for the Coles. From this grew the Army of Briars project. In 2007 they were ready for their first release. In one way or another, they kept the fire burning over the years, and now they release their follow-up. Again with lyrics by Keith Jafrate. And likewise, folk is combined with elements of jazz and progressive music. As on her first statement, they are helped out by a few guests. This time Paul Taylor (grand piano). Peter Sells (bass guitar), Martin Pyne (drums, percussion, vibraphone) and a string section contribute. I do not know about developments in folk music in England, but I can imagine this is a perfect example of music that is 100% folk-rooted but at the same time open to other influences. Elements of jazz and prog that they integrate work as an extension of their ‘folk music. Songs are intelligently structured and a bit experimental. Archer took care of nice arrangements and instrumentation. An album of positive music. Warm sound and nice harmonies. Very enjoyable!
- Dolf Mulder, Vital Weekly, http://www.vitalweekly.net/1346.html
ARMY OF BRIARS tourne autour d’un trio - Julie Cole (chant), Tim Cole (chant et guitares) et Martin Archer (e.a. aux claviers) – auquel vient s’ajouter, selon les besoins des morceaux, une belle brochette d’amis. En 17 chansons dont les paroles sont de Keith Jafrate (4ème membre du trio), « Made from a broken star » raconte l’histoire d’un shaman exilé dans la dure réalité d’aujourd’hui et qui cherche à trouver le chemin pour retourner dans le monde vert … et qui le trouve. Un album enregistré à distance, en raison des mesures de lutte contre le coronavirus, et qui donne l’effet d’un enregistrement en public. Côté musique, on est dans la pure tradition du songwriting progressif, avec parfois quelques touches qui nous font penser à Nico … - Guy Stuckens, RADIO AIR LIBRE www.radioairlibre.net