...'organic' is not a word normally applied to electronic music, but with Archer, it...
Bill Tilland 2002-11-20
Electroacoustic composer Martin Archer uses melodic fragments and rhythmic patterns, but his music seldom builds to a climax or resolves itself in any sort of superficially coherent fashion. Instead, Archer offers the attraction of unusual timbres and textures, and an introspective atmosphere that mixes fragile, sometimes austere beauty with the stuff of hallucination and nightmare - quite often in the same piece. Archer's compositional processes, on this and other of his recordings, involve a bewildering assortment of intuitive studio additions, subtractions and manipulations of source material (emphasis on the "intuitive"). Somewhat tongue in cheek (one would hope), Archer relates that the foundation of one piece on Medulla was generated by "kicking the violin around the studio floor and occasionally poking it with a bow."
This latest collaboration between Archer and longtime associate Chris Bywater (I'm assuming that Bywater is the "Transient," and Archer the "Resident") features the thirty-eight minute "Culm," which starts out with tribal hand-percussion and a dense cloud of mysterioso electronic effects, and then after roughly half its length introduces a haunting, raga-like theme featuring Kamalbir Singh on violin. Fans of Popol Vuh (especially "In The Gardens of Pharao") might notice parallels in the first half of "Culm," but the introduction of the raga element is a totally unexpected delight. With co-credits for electronics and processing, as well as sopranino sax (Archer) and percussion (Bywater), the two principals are certainly capable of going it alone -- as illustrated by the short but gorgeously ethereal "Fimbriata." But Archer's preference is for collaborative composition, and on Medulla he also solicits, treats and integrates recorded submissions from trumpeter Derek Saw, electric/acoustic guitarist Benjamin Bartholomew and the previously mentioned Singh. Saw's poignantly wispy muted trumpet line is inserted, to excellent effect, into what Archer accurately represents as an 'electronic rainforest' on "Claviform," the CD's opening track.
Elsewhere, on the somewhat more aggressive "Squamosa," the end product is the sum of two independent Archer organ tracks, combined by Bywater, who also adds percussion and processing. Then Bartholomew's multiple electric guitar lines are superimposed, together with a touch of Saw's trumpet. Like much of Archer's work, the initially inpenetrable mass of sound resolves itself as it develops, and ultimately becomes another satisfying aesthetic statement. 'Organic' is not a word normally applied to electronic music, but with Archer, it seems to fit.