Martin Archer

English Commonflowers

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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 catalog and makes an excellent point of entry for the curious newcomer. The album hints at the artist's influences, touches most of his interests, and features the musicians he has worked with in the previous few years: Charlie Collins (still in the producer's chair), John Jasnoch, Benjamin Bartholomew, and Tim Cole. So it sounds like a family album, a recapitulation which in turn means that a certain degree of scattering was inevitable. "I'm Yr Huckleberry" is a ten-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.

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