Martin Archer / Geraldine Monk

Angel High Wires

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Angel High Wires Review

by Fran├žois Couture

After releasing many albums on his own Discus label, Martin Archer finally got a well-deserved chance to introduce his work to a slightly larger audience with Angel High Wires, released by La Cooka Ratcha. This project is a collaboration with poet Geraldine Monk and a handful of musicians and singers. The leading idea was to create an electroacoustic song cycle inspired by (or in reaction to) Schubert's lieders. Archer crafted thirteen pieces out of electronics and raw material taken from improvisations between him, drummer Chris Cutler (Henry Cow, etc.) and pianist Philip Thomas. Singers Julie Tippetts, Rachel McCarron, Sedayne (a folk singer working in experimental circles) and Steve Roden (an ambient experimental composer rarely heard in this kind of setting) were asked to compose their own parts on twelve of Monk's poems (the remaining piece has been included as a bonus track, index 14). Archer's regular collaborators Chris Meloche (electronics), Charlie Collins (flute) and Mick Beck (bassoon) were called in to overdub a few tracks. The resulting songs share affinities with the contemporary classical art song and Archer's personal sound world. Dreamy melodies without a harmony frame, abstract electroacoustic pieces topped by words expressing strong, devastating emotions (rooted in Schubert's lyricism, the project implied a certain degree of pathos), these pieces are disquietingly charming. Angel High Wires is not Archer's most fascinating or ground-breaking work, but it succeeds in applying his art to a different, song-oriented context, therefore making it as friendly an entry point to his work you'll probably ever find.

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