Neil Carver & Martin Archer
Discus 24CD
Available formats: CD/DL

“Fairly sparse, with close attention paid to the grain of the sound and featuring a mix of real and virtual instruments alongside invented quasi-instruments. It occupies no clear stylistic territory, but is often very engaging”. – ReR

Neil’s unique approach to both the guitar and found / homemade instruments is here translated into a sequence of finely detailed electroacoustic compositions through extensive use of software processing.

“The retrieving of these forgotten things from oblivion in some sort resembles the art of a conjurer. And when that made by man is all removed, then all that is left is of an origin wholly natural” – JOHN AUBREY, 1670, Monumenta Britannica.

These six electroacoustic compositions are from a duo that has worked together sporadically since the Mesolithic, and which has always used both melody and repetition alongside more abstract elements. Although in the past this duo has performed entirely improvised concerts, for this recording chance procedures have been harnessed within carefully composed structures. This CD explores a variety of compositional possibilities arising from three main sources. Several pieces are based on ideas for modified electric guitar sometimes combined with natural or processed woodwind, while others exploit recent experiments with music boxes. Occasionally these are inserted into an unsuspecting ukulele, producing an artefact from now on to be known as the boxophone. The soundworld moves from the uneasy minimalism of “Retrieving” to the guitar brutalities versus west coast clarinet stylings of “Forgotten things”. The “hau” builds on an idea for sopranino saxophone playing naturally occurring melodic fragments set in a pre-industrial landscape of questionable reality. These longer pieces are balanced against the almost heard as played guitar of “Brodger” and the granular alchemy of “The art of a conjurer”. During the recording of “Material flow” we heard of the sad passing of Jackie McLean. He might not have liked what we’ve played, but we hope he would appreciate the sentiment.

Neil Carver – electric and acoustic guitars, boxophone, percussion, gongs, calls, water, motors
Martin Archer – software instruments, woodwind

24CD - Neil Carver & Martin Archer


Discus label boss Archer loves collaborations and, although he’s a musician of some accomplishment (playing saxes and clarinets on this CD, violin and keyboards elsewhere), he also loves messing about in the studio with his “software instruments.” Composers such as Archer, who build chance procedures into their premeditated structures, are rolling the dice every time out – even more so than if they were simply improvising. Even lacklustre improvisation has an underlying logic, but random plunking and twittering can create a total aural disconnect where the musical artifact literally does not compute. Fortunately, Archer’s electroacoustic stew has the right balance of ingredients this time out. Carver’s processed toy music boxes are quietly (and charmingly) dominant, but on several other pieces, Archer adds recurring motifs with his reeds, while yet other pieces include Carver’s processed guitar and ukulele – although typically, the electronic treatments often disguise the exact nature of the source material. The several longer pieces, especially, give the listener hooks to hang onto (by way of recurring textures and patterns) while still producing sonic landscapes that are beguilingly strange – and strangely beguiling. Recommended – Bill Tilland BBC online

With witty intentions, this enterprising British duo furthers the musical aura of the Discus record label. Here, the musicians correlate nature and big industry amid dedications to the great saxophonist/clarinetist Jimmy Guiffre. Unclassifiable yet largely honed-down by free improv, this set conjures up a distorted depiction of reality. The artists’ implementations feature unorthodox instruments along with woodwinds, guitars, and computer software-based processes. At times the music elicits notions of an electrostatic, alien jungle via multilayered effects and a series of unlikely contrasts. As with most of these Discus productions, listening with a good set of cans will enliven the listening pleasure. They inject depth and subliminally induced ambience into these largely, lengthy works. You will hear 3D type noise-shaping motifs amid Neil Carver and Martin Archer’s sax lines. And on “The Hau of the Forest,” the twosome intersperses chirping bird sounds into synthetic EFX drenched passages and liquefying gongs and cymbals. However, there’s a method to their madness. Essentially, these works tend to coagulate then disappear into a minimalist state, offset by chatty free-form dialogues and acoustic-electric initiated diversions. Then again, their fiendish perspectives of reality communicate surrealism at its best. – Glenn Astarita, Ejazz news

Fairly sparse, with close attention paid to the grain of the sound and featuring a mix of real and virtual instruments alongside invented quasi-instruments. It occupies no clear stylistic territory, but is often very engaging. – ReR

A reflection on the relation between nature and the man-made through a series of musical comments featuring various uses of acoustic and electronic instruments inclined towards simpler, more thoughtful forms, distanced from previous proposals. – Modisti

Neil Carver and Martin Archer have been active on the concert scene for some time now. ‘Artefacts’ represents a profound change from the form they have followed up to now. The change of direction is noticeable right from the very first note struck. The other noticeable thing is the great attention given to the instruments, especially by Carver who delights in experimenting with a mix of devices/instruments, which he himself has put together. Neil is principally a guitarist, but in more than one piece he adds the boxophone which is an unusual combination of music boxes and ukulele. The effect on the ear of this artificial object is a magical and abstract sound, halfway between an out-of-tune music box and some long forgotten stringed instrument. In addition they manage to bring in – almost to converse with – natural sounds such as water and wind. It helps to look at the words of the musicians themselves which accompany the CD; they make clear the very precise interest in creating a fusion between the attraction of natural sounds with those more mechanical. The use of recent IT technology alongside home-produced instruments (which they clearly enjoy creating) is ingenious. One thinks of Oswald Spengler and his ‘Man and the machine’, without intending any ideological reference, but only as a metaphor. Archer appears to remain in the background with softer sounds while his companion, with his dreamy and spiritual touch plays at the highest level of expression and volume. Every piece of the mosaic is put together with a different combination of instruments; First Artefact eg is a mix of guitar and software; Forgotten Things is a mix of boxophone, guitar, percussion, computer and clarinet. The Hau of the Forest mixes gongs, water, percussion and saxophone. ‘Artefacts’ is a great, complex journey, slightly unreal, dreamy and an intriguing mix of synthetic and human sounds. Every lover of improvised music should absolutely give this a try. – Sands-zine

This Stockhausen / Cage influenced duo rely on haunting repetitions as well as taking an abstract approach – Jazzwise

Neil Carver e Martin Archer sono due nomi attivi insieme da tempo dentro un ambito prevalentemente concertistico, in cui si denotava a pieno la sola matrice (totaly) improv. “Artefacts” è il primo supporto prodotto spalla a spalla e nel cui organismo muta (radicalmente) la forma mentis eseguita sino ad oggi. Il primo ‘dirottamento’ si riscontra nella composizione, come atto-veicolo studiato minuziosamente a partire dallo schioccare della prima nota. La seconda molecola è l’attenzione certosina serbata agli strumenti, in particolare da Carver che sperimenta alla bisogna un intreccio di ‘congegni’, da lui auto costruiti. Neil è principalmente un chitarrista ‘tuttofare’, ma inserisce in più di un brano la ‘stravagante’ figura del boxophone: unione inconsueta sotto un’unica forma del music boxes e dell’ukulele. Ciò che si delinea – alle orecchie – da tale oggetto ‘artificiale’ è un canto magico e astratto, a metà strada tra un carillon stonato e stanco ed uno strumento a corda, meravigliosamente scordato. Ma non basta, perché il nostro si destreggia a giocare-dialogare con elementi sonori presi in prestito dalla natura, quali l’acqua e il vento. Proprio in questo frangente, viene utile la parola degli stessi protagonisti, nelle note interne al cd, che manifestano il preciso interesse di fondere in un solo colpo attrazione per i suoni naturali e per quelli ‘meccanici’, elevata ingegnosità per l’adopero di recenti tecnologie informatiche e diletto originale per la creazione di strumenti artigianali. A questo punto, verrebbe da pensare a Oswald Spengler ed al suo “l’uomo e la macchina”… senza trarre in ballo nessun riferimento ideologico, ma solo l’essenza della metafora interna nel duo. Il buon vecchio Archer pare restare (volutamente?) in sordina, durante quasi tutti i frangenti, dando modo così al compagno di affiorare al massimo dell’espressività – e del volume – col suo tocco onirico e spirituale. “Artefact” è un (mega) viaggio(ne) complesso, irreale, denso di soluzioni ammiccanti, che qualsiasi buongustaio di musica improvvisata dovrebbe assaggiare a tutti i costi. Ogni tassello di questo mosaico è costruito con una diversa combinazione degli strumenti; First Artefact:Brodger, ad esempio, viene realizzata dall’associazione di chitarra elettrica e software, Forgotten Things, dalla simbiosi di boxophone, chitarra, percussioni, computer e clarinetto basso, The Hau ofthe Forest, dalla fusione di gongs, acqua, percussioni e sax sopranino… Tempi dilatati, pensieri sopraffini, suoni sintetici ed umani, inconfondibile calore della nuova improvvisazione made in Sheffield!!! – KATHODIC

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