Ron Caines / Martin Archer AXIS
Practical Dreamers
Discus 178CD
Available formats: CD/DL

Ron Caines – alto and soprano saxophones
Martin Archer – bass and Bb clarinets, flute, tuned percussion, electronics, whistles, harmonica
Hervé Perez – laptop, sound processing
Laura Cole – piano
Anton Hunter – electric guitar, electronics
Michael Bardon – cello
Gus Garside – double bass
Johnny Hunter – drums

The fifth AXIS recording once again brings in a different approach to the music.

Practical Dreamers is a suite of seven pre-recorded electroacoustic structures composed by Martin Archer, with real time laptop responses created and performed by Hervé Perez – which together provide a live improvising environment for the other instrumentalists. Drum and double bass parts were created through discussion with the players, and some drum parts were modified electronically by Hervé later. Melodies and improvisations were added spontaneously by Ron Caines, responding to the finished soundscapes.

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Ron Caines is all over this recording, the fifth album in this series of collaborations with the Martin Archer Axis. Practical Dreamers begins with a dream-like prelude sequence from a pedalled soundscape of electronics and shifting patterns, literally built from the ‘axis’ of Mr Archer’s composed structures and the rest of the band’s response to them. Later, when these were already completed and part mixed, Ron Caines took this material and centre-staged his own responses to them. And yes, as I say, he’s all over the material. Practical Dreamers is a very melodic work, as tuneful as a songbook – believably improvised, but packed full of alto and soprano garlands, settings of sound which have my ears twitching to hints of standards like Berkley Square, What A Difference A Day Makes and everything else you ever heard Sonny Rollins touch with magic. But like the previous Caines/Archer recordings, Port Of Saints and Blutopia, this new release is truly of itself. Ron Caines doesn’t actually quote any specific American songbook standard but when he solos over Michael Bardon’s rich cello playing on Part 5, it’s possible to imagine, to conjure an encounter with the best of Broadway fed through a digital remake. And on Part 6, Ornette Coleman’s beautiful take on Embraceable You hangs in the air like witchcraft. It’s all lovely; ‘practical’, possibly, but deeply, deeply creative and inspiring. In recent years Port Of Saints has become one of my constant go-to listens. I have a strong feeling Practical Dreamers will position itself high on my playlist, an instant classic. PS, a quick mention to Gus Garside (bass) and Johnny Hunter (drums), they have this music balanced to a tee. – Steve Day, June 2024

With the artwork for Practical Dreamers (DISCUS 178) by AXIS, Ron Caines once again shows his picturesque side. The 7-part suite is a layered cake like “Dream Feathers”, “Port of Saints” and “Blutopia”, but this time not with Caines as a basis, but with his alto and soprano sax melodies as the crowning glory. The initial layer this time is electroacoustic foils by Martin Archer on (bass) clarinets, flute, tuned percussion, electronics, whistles & harmonica and Hervé Perez on laptop, which were rhythmized in Sheffield with double bass and drums by Gus Garside and Johnny Hunter and improvised in Riddlesden by Laura Cole on piano, Anton Hunter on electric guitar and Michael Bardon on cello. before Caines put his seal on it in Brighton. Sentimental and beauty-drunk to a melancholic cello and an electronically grained, intricate flow of sound with the sound of the other instruments as flotsam. The carpet that Archer rolls out with the Discus crew for this morphing, turbulent dreamscape in part 4 once again shows his genius in its ‘dreaminess’. And that his respect for Caines is surpassed by simple admiration. Because in front of what Caines is ‘singing’ at the age of almost 80, even Cerberus would cower. And if the elegiac finale doesn’t put a lump down your throat, I don’t want to have you as a neighbor.– Rigobert Dittmann, BAD ALCHEMY

Pour les précédents albums du Ron CAINES et Martin Archer AXIS, le saxophoniste anglais Ron Caines demandait à ses amis musiciens de réagir à un enregistrement de sa musique, considérée comme base du travail du groupe. Ici c’est le contraire : il a agi en dernier lieu, ajoutant spontanément mélodies et improvisations aux paysages sonores terminés par les autres.  « Practical dreamers » est une suite de 7 structures électroacoustiques composées et pré-enregistrées par le multiinstrumentiste Martin Archer, additionnées de manipulations créées par Hervé Perez sur son laptop. De quoi créer un environnement d’improvisations pour les autres instrumentistes. Le sax y joue évidemment un rôle prépondérant, mais mis en valeur par les autres instruments. – Guy Stuckens, RADIO AIR LIBRE

I’m on holiday, and it’s raining here, so I’m sitting listening to this album from Ron Caines and Martin Archer which has just been released. Their previous album, Bluetopia, is one of my favourite albums of recent times so I’ve been looking forward to this. Martin is a master of creating new and unusual ways of working when recording – here a large cast of artists have been used to create a soundworld over which Ron Caines has improvised as the final stage of the process. Martin describes it as “an extended concerto for Ron’s saxophones”. The result is really compelling. A record featuring nine virtuosic improvisers might be expected to sound very dense. Instead the reality here is music full of space. It’s far from empty though. I’m put in mind of the ocean, a vast world, quite empty at first glance, but in fact teemimg with life and possibilities. The integration of electronic and acoustic elements is remarkable, and as ever Ron Caines’ playing is a constant revelation. Great work here from Hervé Perez, Laura Cole, Anton Hunter, Michael Bardon, Gus Garside, and Johnny Hunter. Another triumph of an album I think. Recommended! – Martin Pyne, BANDCAMP UK JAZZ
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