Martin Archer
English Commonflowers
Discus 15CD
Available formats: CD/DL


“Odd beauty and potential malevolence…..reminiscent of Faust at their best….. English but in no way common, Archer’s complex, gorgeous music demands a wider audience” – Peter Marsh, BBC website

“It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up….inventive…..uncluttered …..sublime….a restrained floating beauty…..worth repeated listenings” – Paul Donnelly, Stride

Recorded 2000 – 2002, and picking up from its predecessor “Winter pilgrim arriving” in using mainly tonal compositions, although overall it has a jazzier feel than the earlier recording.

Martin Archer – keyboards and electronics, sopranino and alto saxophones,
clarinet, recorder, violin, bass guitar, harmonica, vibraphone, glockenspiel


John Jasnoch – lap steel guitar
Tim Cole – acoustic guitar
Benjamin Bartholomew – electric guitar
Chris Meloche – field recording
Jenni Molloy – double bass
Simon Pugsley – trombone
Charlie Collins – flute, bass clarinet, producer
Vic Middleton – tenor saxophone
Neil Stanniland – trumpet
Julie Helliwell – trombone

Recorded 2000 – 2002, and picking up from its predecessor “Winter pilgrim arriving” in using mainly tonal compositions, although overall it has a jazzier feel than the earlier recording. After the opening out – and – out Softs tribute “I’m yr huckleberry”, complete with monster organ solo and full horn section, the remaining compositions move between the zeuhl – like “Water grid”, an amped up version of Nick Drake’s “Know”, a couple of almost solo saxophone pieces (finally after 35 years of playing it, I record a solo!), the highly abstract “Mall bunnies” where Messiaen meets massive death metal guitar, the atmospheric drone jazz of “Down the road” and “Trash white tonal”, and the dub – wise title track. An accessible entry point to the varied Archer sound world.

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“Odd beauty and potential malevolence…..reminiscent of Faust at their best….. English but in no way common, Archer’s complex, gorgeous music demands a wider audience” – Peter Marsh, BBC website

“A showcase for Archer’s adaptability…..Nine neat exercises in style” – Wire

Every album Martin Archer puts out under his own name is a perplexing proposition in itself. Paradoxically, English Commonflowers sounds somewhat stranger to the acquainted ear because it is considerably more listener-friendly than his previous albums. It may not be as gripping and thoroughly captivating as Winter Pilgrim Arriving, but it remains a more than honest entry in his catalogue and makes an excellent point of entry for the curious newcomer. The album hints at the artist¹s influences, touches most of his interests and features the musicians he has worked with in the past few years: Charlie Collins (still in the producer¹s chair), John Jasnoch, Benjamin Bartholomew, and Tim Cole. So it sounds like a family album, a recapitulation which in turn means a certain degree of scattering was inevitable. I’m Yr Huckleberry is a 10-minute long fuzz organ solo with electronics and saxophone overdubs to put meat around the bone. An admitted tribute to Soft Machine’s organist Mike Ratledge, it is one of three tracks with pop overtones. The other two are Know, a highly personal (and almost unrecognizable) rendition of the Nick Drake song — more like a dream of electronic textures anchored by a ghostly reminiscence of the basic riff — and the title track, based on a reggae-like bass keyboard motif. The latter features Jasnoch on lap steel guitar, Cole on acoustic guitar and trombonist Simon Pugsley, backed by a street recording. Each one of these tracks acts like a window to Archer’s personality. Water Grid comes back to the kind of dark electronic textures and electric guitar (Bartholomew) that made Winter Pilgrim Arriving so memorable. Martin Archer continues to record fascinating, endearing music and he does it outside any and all trends (avant-gardist or otherwise). He’s a thinking listener’s guilty pleasure.” – Francois Couture, All-Music Guide

“Daring and brilliant…..another excellent showcase for Archer’s eclectic and inventive approach.” – Martin Lilleker, Sheffield Telegraph.

“It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up….inventive…..uncluttered …..sublime….a restrained floating beauty…..worth repeated listenings” – Paul Donnelly, Stride

“Intricate and exciting…..the pieces deserve and repay the attention” – Ampersand Etcetera

“Full marks…..quite remarkable…..there’s just too much music and information here” – Duncan Heining, Jazzwise

“Archer’s nine-track sound experiment was recorded in two different studios and remixed between January 2000 and March 2002. Like bassist Simon H. Fell, with whom he worked on two earlier CDs, Archer is a player who has turned more and more to composition in recent years. Unlike Fell, who often records roaring free jazz pieces as an instrumentalist, Archer has mostly curtailed his sax playing for work with keyboards and electronics. That’s why it’s particularly gratifying here to find two reed-driven tracks, featuring Archer’s alto saxophone and dedicate to the Art Ensemble’s Roscoe Mitchell. Most impressive is “Still life with absinthe and pomegranates,” as archetypical a BritImprov title as you can imagine. On display are classic vocalized reed squeaks and smears, not to mention tongue slaps, with multiphonics sometimes giving ‘way to pure colored noises blown through the saxophone body. Of course this wouldn’t be an Archer composition if what appears to be a sampled version of his earlier solo didn’t show up near the end. Throughout, there are also contributions from longtime Archer mate Charlie Collins, spewing out busy flute patterns, as well as overdubbed bass clarinet lines and some keyboard counterpoint. If these tunes reflect BritImprov, then a couple of others pay homage to subspecies of BritRock. Lead off track, “I’m yr huckleberry,” is described as a tribute to 1970s jazz/rockers The Soft Machine. Featuring shimmering electronic keyboard washes and fuzz-tone bass guitar — both played by Archer — soundtrack potential is definitely there, especially when the fuzztones keep recurring as if the studio was beneath an RAF jet flyover. Combined, the horn section of flugelhornist Neil Stanniland, trombonist Julie Helliwell, tenor saxophonist Vic Middleton and Archer on alto saxophones give this piece more of jazz feel than the Soft Machine exhibited in its most instrumentally free phase. Elements from depressive singer/songwriter Nick Drake’s “Black Dog” appear on “Know,” another Archer solo piece. This time, though, it appears as if the sizzling keyboard sounds are amplified filigree on top of the likely sampled guitar drone and repetitive drumbeats. Archer isn’t above using the sort of studio legerdemain Fell employed on his Composition No. 30 on “Trash white tonal.” On this textural piece, the duet between Simon Pugsley’s hearty, boppish trombone and Jenni Molloy’s sepulchral bass was initially recorded against a completely different electronic track. The droning guitar work and reverberating electronics — again created by Archer — were substituted at a later date. Even more visually oriented are the title track and “Mall bunnies.” On the former actualities from a Liverpool street, complete with a bus’s air brake noises, are melded with instrumental sounds, including Archer’s promulgated echoing and arching keyboard/electronic tones that add up to an admixture of what was created by Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound and synth-driven new romantic bands. As crowd noise and children’s voices filter in and out of the beat-driven music, Pugsley’s open horn trombone makes its presence felt as does the near folk-rock of Tim Cole on acoustic guitar and John Jasnoch on lap steel. At more than 171/2-minutes, “Mall bunnies” perhaps wins a prize as the most superior work of music with the silliest title. Influenced, as its composer states, by Morton Feldman, Olivier Messiaen, the organ sound on Miles Davis’s later LPs, death metal and Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Music, it isn’t so much a mish mash as an epic-proportion cinemascopic homage to his many icons. Featuring Collins on flute, bassist Molloy and Benjamin Bartholomew on electric guitar, much of the piece revolves around Archer’s work on vibes and glockenspiel, which seem to be in appropriate Sun Ra, outer space tuning. Including another Soft Machine-influenced organ-stop keyboard undercurrent, the flutist brings a breathy Carnatic tone to his solos while Bartholomew operates in proper Metallica mode throughout. Also included are what seem to be warbling birdcalls that come upfront whenever the hard rock guitar or restrained dynamic piano touches aren’t there. Standout may be the brawny yet restrained, booming Mingusian bass solo. Trickster that he is, though, Archer slid this solo, recorded in a different context and different session into the track’s mix. Tired of Hollywood blockbusters that seem to be nothing more than special effects and product placements and TV shows that are aimed at the lowest common denominator? Here are a couple of moving pictures for the mind that should give you more pleasure and more things to think about than anything attached to sprockets. “– Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly

“This release….affords the listener many pleasurable new paradigms for thinking and feeling via the medium of juxtaposed sound….I marvel at the composer’s taste and ingenuity….unsettlingly beautiful….Bartholomew’s guitar ejaculates death like a flamethrower….gorgeous morbidity…it’s really, really entertaining” – Jonathan Heller, Sound Projector

“Martin Archer hails from Great Britain. He’s performed within free jazz circles, primarily as a saxophonist. These days the artist uses a variety of synth-flavored keyboards, fuzz bass, and other instruments. Here, Archer and others execute otherworldly soundscapes. But his music is difficult to classify as he imparts an indelible stamp of authenticity to these asymmetrically devised works. You’ll hear grunge style guitar parts, odd-metered rhythmic interludes, airy EFX, and jazzy horn arrangements. In sum, Archer defies common notions of practicality, which in turn provides the luminous spark to these inventively concocted soundscapes.” – Glenn Astarita All About Jazz

After a long and miserable winter the Sun’s finally making a rare appearance so it’s the right time to finally play an album that, initially and teasingly, harkens back to summer days of old. Rolling fields, buttercups (‘do you like butter?’) and simpler days before ferocious consumerism stamped its jacket boot on it all. The first track, ‘I’m Yr Huckleberry’, sets the misleading scene. Shiny sunny days; good days of melody and as easy drift. Then Archer begins to peel away the veneer of nostalgia to reveal an all together more complex and less rose-tinted memory. The further down the layers we go, the darker the shadows. There’s little chance of taking things, memories, for granted. A truer account emerges which enriches and wrong-foots in equal measure with its recalling. Hearing the melodic lines lulling you into complacency is all the more enjoyable when it clicks that you’re actually being led into the darker side of the alley. And what could be subtly darker than the cover of Nick Drake’s ‘Know’? The acoustic and the processed come together. The vocal replaced by an electronic sheen. Past and present; the present and a changing memory of the past. The most pleasurable listen is the skittish ‘Mall Bunnies’, a reference to happy shopping-precinct shoppers. The extended track is like coming to a comatose halt in a shopping precinct and letting your brain slowly fragment until….. Christ, a bloody great behemoth of an electric guitar grunts and roars in your face giving you awareness what you’re feeling and where you are. This one’s from the electro-acoustic side of Archer’s brain. Not one for the hardcore jazzers. It’s more of an evolving soundtrack. Keyboards, processing, double basses, trombones glockenspiels and saxes abound. The cover is an illustration of most assuredly uncommon flowers ripped out of an old book (perish the though.) – Hassni Malik, Irrational Arts

Mit “English Commonflowers” veröffentlichte Martin Archer Anfang 2003 sein erstes Soloalbum im neuen Jahrtausend und insgesamt sein sechstes. Entstanden sind die neun Stücke zwischen Januar 2000 und März 2002. An diversen Tasteninstrumenten, elektronischen Klangerzeugern und Effektgerätschaften, Bass, Saxophonen, Klarinette, Virbraphon, Glockenspiel, Violine und Blockflöte ist Archer hier tätig, dazu kommen noch verschiedene blasende bzw. gitarrespielende Gastmusiker. Gewöhnliches, wie es der Titel andeutet, gibt es auf “English Commonflowers”, dem 15ten Album von Archers Discus Label, sicher nicht zu hören. Auch wenn es hier vornehmlich tonal zugeht, ist das klangliche Ergebnis sicher nicht jedermanns Sache. Eine sehr abwechslungsreiche Mischung aus Jazz, Retro-Canterburyartigem, RIO-Avantgardistischem und sehr viel Elektronik strömt hier aus den Boxen, die alles in allem doch sehr komplex und sperrig ausgefallen ist. Klangvolle, bisweilen minimalistisch-repetitive Tastengewebe, dichte Elektronikgespinste, sonores Dröhnen und Wabern, freiformatige Orgel- und E-Pianoeinlagen, mächtige Keyboard-Elektronikkollagen, rhythmische Muster und diverse, bisweilen verfremdete und bearbeitet Einspielungen von Natur- bzw. Instrumentalklängen bilden die Hauptmasse der Musik, in die zudem die Erzeugnisse der verschiedenen Blasinstrumente (Saxophone, Klarinetten, Posaune, Flügelhorn, Flöten), Perkussives (kein Schlagzeug), Kontrabassläufe und allerlei Einlagen an elektrisch verstärkten bzw. akustischen Gitarren eingebunden sind. Dezent, fast filigran, aber doch bestimmt gleitet die Musik voran, mit einer gewissen Canterburyartigen Atmosphäre, bisweilen unterbrochen von kürzeren lärmenden Momenten (man höre z.B. die deftigen E-Gitarreneinlagen in “Water grid”). Die Musik wirkt dabei immer sehr frei und formlos, gleichzeitig seltsam luftig und leicht. Wirklich schräg oder wüst wird es nie, aber etwas düster ab und zu. Bisweilen bekommt das Tongemenge einen exotischen Anstrich und klingt dann fast wie eine experimentelle Version von Jade Warrior (der Grossteil von “Mall bunnies” z.B.). Anderes bewegt sich in darkjazzartigen Gefilden, mit atmosphärisch-düsteren Tonmonumenten in die Sax-, Flügelhorn-, Klarinetten und Trompetenklänge eingestreut sind. Selten geht es ganz akustisch-jazzig zu (weite Teile von “Still life with absinthe and pomegranates”). Häufiger wird rein elektronisch klanggebastelt. “English Commonflowers” ist sicher kein einfaches, aber ein sehr beeindruckendes, sehr farbiges Album, das jedem aufgeschlossenen Progger, der gerne die Grenzgebiete von Avant-Jazz und Elektronik bereist, stark empfohlen sei. – Achim Breiling BABYBLAUE

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