“Martin Archer corrals some top-notch names on the new jazz circuit to birth this quietly unassuming and arresting release….. Each musician brings a colorful tincture of fundamental prowess to the gathering….. There’s worse ways to go than getting stung by the sweet nectar of this lot.” – Darren Bergstein, Downtown Music Gallery NYC
“Splendidly pessimistic” – Sound Projector
Martin Archer – sopranino and alto saxophones, flute
John Jasnoch – bass guitar
Sarah Farmer – violin and electronics
Lee Boyd Allatson – drums and percussion
John and Martin played with Sarah and Lee as part of the Birmingham Improvisors Orchestra, and quickly had the idea for this group – they lost no time in getting the quartet into the studio and spontaneously putting down this mix of compositions, graphic scores and improvisations, which hovers between AACM style free jazz, improvised music plus a hint of contemporary classical music.
On Wasp Honey (DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 138CD), Martin Archer and friends present an array of different approaches – playing compositions, a graphic score, and free improvisations. Archer plays saxophones (and flute, and bass harmonica), with John Jasnoch on bass guitar, Sarah Farmer on violin and electronics, and Lee Boyd Allatson on drums. Farmer and Allatson are part of the Birmingham Improvisation Orchestra, so in one sense this is an ad-hoc on-the-hoof group assembly, but impressively they managed to record this entire album in a single day. Three pieces are compositions by Archer, including the splendidly pessimistic ‘Microagressor’ which may refer to anything from triggers in the workplace to a virus attacking your PC, although you may prefer the longer ‘Two Way Traffic’, which on the surface may seem more accessible, but there’s a lot of ingenuity in the way it manages the different solo lines from sax or violin. Then there’s ‘WSMay10’, a graphic score created by Walt Shaw, the drummer who we last heard on See You Soon Or See You Sometime from this label; on today’s record we hear the same information interpreted by all four players in turn, each taking their stab at relaying it for their respective instrument; my personal fave of the four is Sarah Farmer’s, two minutes of skeletal spider-web tracery from her violin (complete with vocal interjections as she apparently talks herself through the score). Although her piece appears quite late in the programme, I would still say it sets the tone for the remainder of the set, which is rather downbeat in places, if not outright bleak; both ‘Swoon’ and ‘Flood’, two of the longer free improvisations here, indicate the default temperament of this foursome is not of a happy disposition, as they muse on current affairs and the uncertain state of the world. Anthony Donovan’s monochrome photo-images, possibly treated and collaged in Photoshop, propose a grim industrial future with implied menace lurking just out of eyeshot, not unlike a Pere Ubu record cover from 1979. – Sound Projector https://www.thesoundprojector.com/2023/12/18/high-rise-vertical-descent/
Martin Archer corrals some top-notch names on the new jazz circuit to birth this quietly unassuming and arresting release. He’s worked with the above-noted colleagues before, specifically within the Birmingham Improvisors Orchestra; reconstituted as a tightly-knit quartet, the four straddle only the finest drops of electroacoustic improv, composition, and a vast array of post-modernist, post-classical tropes. Each musician brings a colorful tincture of fundamental prowess to the gathering. Archer fixes his gaze on blowing his astringent alto, sopranino saxophones and flute; Jasnoch’s bass guitar waxes a bit of Eberhard Weber here, some momentous Barry Guy alterations there; Farmer’s violin throttles many a chamber-esque participant, smearing her notes with astutely-choreographed electronic flourishes; drummer Allatson can be as fleet and cunning as Eddie Prevost when he chooses to be, which is often. Together, the four subtly provide enough instrumental grit to move mountains. The opening twelve minutes of “Flood” takes its full complement of minutes to finally crest, as the tumescent urgings of violin and sax dance seductively about one another in flagrante delicto. “Two Way Traffic” is indeed a more bustling affair, Allatson’s percussive firmament propelling forward with a good deal of wit and aplomb, a sturdy bedrock upon which Archer bends notes like passers by navigating tortured, congested avenues. By the time we’ve gotten to “Swoon” (hair tousled back, flirtatious gestures cast askance, looks stolen), as Archer’s bluster vies for attention amidst Farmer’s aching cries, the callback to “Flood” squares the circle, lovers leaping, energies ejected, chaos christened. The closing title track acts like the party’s pre-dawn comedown, swinging with the kind of cool autumnal ‘60s shuffle that would make Don Rendell and Ian Carr proud as peacocks. There’s worse ways to go than getting stung by the sweet nectar of this lot. – Darren Bergstein, Downtown Music Gallery NYC
Another month and another Martin Archer collaboration. You have the feeling that the man never sleeps, adventures in sound flowing through his veins at all moments. The thing is, the quality never seems to dip even when the variety is so great. Here, he reconvenes with old friend John Jasnoch on bass guitar, percussionist Lee Allatson and Sarah Farmer on violin and electronics. The title of Wasp Honey is curious, as is the album artwork. The idea of wasps making honey lends the question if they did, how would it taste? Bitter? Sour? Is this album attempting to replicate the sensation of stumbling across wasp honey in another world? The artwork is mysterious and slightly threatening, so how will the music appear? Group improv “Flood” opens the proceedings, a shadowy murmur, the violin a lonely cry. The instruments feel overwhelmed by the abandoned imagery and they carry through the echoing corridors, hallways emptied of obvious life. The sax feels full of hurt, although as things progress so each player rallies round, supporting, banding together, disparate energies finding a common goal. The sparseness of the sound allows the listener to infer much. It is an intriguing opening gambit and you know that you are in for an ear-opening journey. On this album, John’s bass has the loveliest tone, leading a reflective cymbal filled dance on “Two Way Traffic”. A mellow turn, plucked violin hesitant, then the riff appears and Lee strikes out, lovely tom rolls gathering the momentum in both hands and coalescing around the fleeting, fleeing sax. The interaction is delightful and you feel they are safe indoors, away from threat. The collisions at times sound accidental, but then something sparks one player to follow a thread and see where it leads. Someone may sit back and observe, allow things to unfold until their presence is right and then sweep back in; a sudden tumble of drums, a sweet swarm of sax notes or a romantic burr of violin. Woodland is viewed through shaded windows, a mere glance yet a whole physical yearning away. The refinement, the extraordinary patience speaks of hidden reserves, with Martin’s keening notes high and fluid, often leading an attempt. The fact that it was all recorded in an afternoon is so impressive, an effortless mosaic of texture and pattern. “Microagressor” is all about the low burn of bass depth and the simmering wildfire of percussion. There is a strange sense of constrained urgency, violin and reeds stuck in torpor; while “Swoon” has lachrymose violin against a constant pressure build of percussion. There is a pleasing solitude here, the violin hazing a layer of invasive drone, John’s bass the warm heart just waiting for Martin to let rip and suddenly all the latent energy of the previous pieces is spent, little details noticeable as almost silence follows. The larger album pieces are interspersed by solo snippets of a graphic score composed by Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere alum Walt Shaw and these act almost as palate cleansers. Weightless and animated sometimes, gruff sprinklings, some movements too quick to hear, all short and sweet but just waiting to be hung together. The album closes with the title track, which is unexpectedly the sweetest thing here when perhaps I was expecting something else. The sax croons and although there is a hint of darkness in the creeping bass, it finishes Wasp Honey with a renewed outlook — although questions still remain. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ https://freq.org.uk/reviews/wasp-honey-st/
It is an interesting showcase of the variety of working methods that contemporary improvisors use. There are three compositions by Archer for the quartet, characterised successively by swagger, dread, and whimsy; four solo interpretations of a graphic score by Walt Shaw, and three quartet improvisations. This certainly gives some welcome variety to the set. I haven’t heard John Jasnoch on bass before but he brings the mastery and thoughtfulness to it that he brings to all his work. He is certainly the heartbeat of this group – occupying the lower frequencies and providing a rhythmic and harmonic node for the line up. Archer plays woodwind and Farmer violin, while Allatson is a nimble and lightfooted percussionist, so there is a role for an anchor. – Rupert Loydell, INTERNATIONAL TIMES
MARTIN ARCHER war wieder fleißig und kreativ sowieso. Bei Wasp Honey (DISCUS 138 CD) z. B. mit John Jasnoch (seinem alten Spielgefährten von Bass Tone Trap an bis zuletzt wieder bei „Provenance“) an Bassgitarre, Sarah Farmer (die in Birmingham mit Sidist Utopian Revolutionary Groove Ensemble, The Destroyers, Bonfire Radicals fiedelt) an Geige & Electronics und Lee Boyd Allatson (South Leicestershire Improvisers Ensemble und, mit Farmer, Birmingham Improvisers Orchestra) an Drums & Percussion als WASP HONEY – schöner Name, by the way. Er trötet und flötet da mit Sopranino- & Altosax, Flöte und Bassharmonika, bei drei Kompositionen seinerseits und mit ‘Flood’, ‘Troop’ und ‘Swoon’ drei freien Improvisationen. Dazu führen sie mit ‘WSMay10’ jeweils solo vier Interpretationen einer graphischen Partitur von Walt Shaw aus, wobei Farmer den Vogel abschießt. Doch zeigen sie sich allesamt mit britischem Spleen der liebenswertesten Sorte begabt und mit Hinter- und Eigensinn dem Spielerischen verschworen. Bei allem Respekt vor Derek Bailey, Sheffields Improv-Adorno, since Derek left the building krabbeln, schliddern, knarzen da die Mäuse mikroaggressiv über Fell und Saiten, und Archer selber piept und quiekt als singende Josefine, dass der Katze das Grinsen vergeht. Fragt mich nicht, wo da die Linie zwischen subtil und skurril verläuft und wie Haschee mit Quittengelee schmeckt – oder mit ‘Wespenhonig’. Das sind halt doch Spezialitäten eines Völkchens, das Swoon und Moon auf Runcible Spoon reimt. [BA 116 rbd] – Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY
Hatched from an encounter in the Birmingham Improvisers Orchestra, Wasp Honey matches Archer and long-time collaborator electric bassist John Jasnoch with violinist Sarah Farmer and drummer Lee Boyd Allatson on an eclectic but left-leaning program. They share a common wavelength, shown best in the three collective imaginings that comprises two thirds of the hour-long set. The opening “Flood” drifts atmospherically, providing an aural equivalent to the blurry cover images, mutable, lacking sharp edges, shapes bleeding into one another. On “Troop”, lines intertwine, approach consonance, and sometimes meander, while “Swoon” comes off as the most forceful of the improvs, courtesy of Allatson’s clattery momentum. Three varied Archer compositions break up the set, of which the eventful “Two Way Traffic” constitutes the pick. Four pithy solo interpretations of a graphic score by Walt Shaw pepper the set, giving scope for unalloyed individual expression. Archer’s alto excursion is particularly notable, a tangle of leaping intervals, silences, drawn-out sibilance and clarion bellows, while Farmer adds vocal commentary to a rendition both solid and ghostly. Archer’s title track finishes the album on a jaunty note, again demonstrating an astute appreciation of how to curate a satisfying listening experience. – John Sharpe, NEW YORK CITY JAZZ RECORD
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