Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Martin Archer - Winter Pilgrim Arriving

Martin Archer
Winter Pilgrim Arriving

Released 2000 on Discus
Reviewed by Jim Tones, 21/03/2005ce

Martin Archer - Sythesizers, Sopranino Sax, Bflat and Bass
Clarinets, Recorders, Violectronics, Programming.

Benjamin Bartholomew - Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Derek Saw - Cornet
Simon H. Fell - Double Bass
Tim Cole - Acoustic guitar
Charlie Collins - Flute, Sampling, Electronics
Gino Robair - Percussion
James Archer - Amplified Objects
Mick Beck - Bassoon
Sedayne - Crwth

Recorded 1998-1999 at various studios. Produced by Charlie Collins.

Martin Archer started his active musical journey as part of Sheffield's underground improvisation scene at the age of 16 in 1973.
Ten years later he formed the Saxophone quartet- Hornweb, after playing in the electric-jazz outfit- Bass Tone Trap.
After ten years of live performances, he disbanded the quartet and set up the Discus label in 1993, the vehicle to release his various collaborations and projects with an equally impressive pool of talented and open-minded musicians.
The year 2000 saw the release of this incredible album.

If there are those of you out there who 'have a problem' trying to get your head around 'Improv Music', then this album could be the one which might make things easier!
Archer has developed a great technique where he records various people in different locations, sometimes together, sometimes solo.
Some snippets are written and some are totally improvised.
He then deftly weaves together all the raw materials to produce finished tracks which can start as delicate acoustic passages whilst being accompanied by ominous blasts of electricity.
It can veer from frightening intensity to lush ambience all in a matter of minutes, seconds even.
A rich and strong tapestry, which is at times astonishing.
I wouldn't say it's an album to put on 'in the background' or to pop into your CD player when a few friends come around to visit, but one which, if you've got time to spare, just to listen to whilst slunked into your chair...clamp those headphones on and get taken away for a while!

Archer was fascinated at all the different musics that were coming into view in the early 1970s, from the directions of Miles Davis to the various dark electronic escapades of certain collectives in deepest germany.
He would also be captivated by the sound of witch-season acoustic guitars in the various twilight folk circles.
So many different ingredients, you could make anything happen.
All these influences served as the inspiration for many of his Discus releases, but in particular, it's this album that realises it most.

"Angel Words"- starts with Ben Bartholomew's visceral guitar poundings while Archer's Soprano Sax sends out a shining clarion call.
A very short opening track at just over two minutes, but kicks the gates open to all possibilities.
"The Eclipse Farm Heresies"- develops into Acoustic Piano and Double Bass being surrounded by irritable sheets of Synth until Derek Saw's Cornet comes in to try and sort out the fuss.
"Beautiful City On The Hill"- This starts with a cavernous breath of electronics, but just when you think you are entering an industrial wasteland, Bartholomew and Cole's Acoustic rich pickings show that it's just a summer storm on your favourite spot in the country.

"A Dream Of Broken and Floating Doors"- has some sparse yet playful muted Cornet, Flute and clattering Percussion, further offset by quick and minute scrapes and tweaks which sometimes has you wondering
which instrument is on show.
"Horn" is Archer's adaption of the Nick Drake composition with nicely paced wah-Guitar and frail Sax and somehow captures perfectly, the author's lost soul.

"Death-Runes, Death-Rumours, Ruins, Rains Of Death"
Sinister tubular Synths, malfunctioned Guitars and god-knows-what Samples all glue together with further electronic hums which give out to the sound of a Recorder (!) which comes in like a shaft of sunlight in a darkened well. But this isn't a 'difficult' music, just very fascinating!

"Chemistry Lock (Mike, Elton, Hugh, Robert)"
Well, as any canterbury cad will tell you, by the title alone, this tip's a hat to Soft Machine (circa "4" and "5").
The Drum programming is fantastic, although it doesn't sound as if it could be pulled off- believe me it does, this is the spirit of the Softs through a crisp new millenium filter. Mick Beck's Bassoon playing starts to give this track real impetus, with Archer coming in later doing a perfect homage to Mike Ratlege.
Obviously, this track was more formulated than the others on this recording and to say it captures the feel of that era of Soft Machine is an understatement, but it also shows another side to the collective players.
It must be said also, that the production skills of Charlie Collins (who some people may remember as the jewel in the original Clock DVA crown), are one fine example of this man's many talents.
I think the track could have gone on further than it's seven or so minutes though!

The Title Track features the medieval welsh instrument, the Crwth, a sort of bowed Lyre cum Viola which ushers in a very foreboding atmosphere and sounds great set against Derek Saw's Cornet.
Blotches of solo melodic Synth then take the track to a different arena, especially when the Acoustic Guitars come in, until Archers' Sax and frosted electronics, ripple under all the disjointed pulses and flourishing sounds.
"River Followers (for Nick Drake)"
Lush melodies, half and fully formed, dark washes of Synths and crazy ripped static Samples, eventually merge to some fading folk rumbles.
As with every track on this album and other Discus releases, all the elements so different, yet all succumb to a strange and unbelievable whole.
"Harbour Town Online" closes the album and is a short and very becalmed end to a very rich journey.

The Hidden Sound of Sheffield.

It could open a whole new world for some people.

For info on the many marvellous releases on the Discus imprint, go to:


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