ANGEL HIGH WIRES by Martin
Archer & Geraldine Monk was released by Voiceprint / La Cooka Racha on December 3rd 2001 (LCVP149CD) featuring as it does compositional & performance contributions from Sedayne
(voice & crwth) & Rachel McCarron (voice) as well as Julie Tippetts (nee
Driscoll), Chris Cutler (ex Henry Cow etc...), Steve Roden, Philip Thomas, Chris Meloche, Charlie Collins & Mick Beck.
Available from Voiceprint
This CD has been reviewed thus...
Electronic composer Archer's music is always filled with surprises -- a
consequence of his tireless experimentation with sound, his liberal use of
chance elements in his compositions, and his rotating cast of musicians and
use of unconventional instruments (bassoon, crwth, prepared piano, etc.).
On this disk, Archer also works for the first time with the human voice,
and the results are predictably stimulating.
This recording represents Archer's collaboration with poet Geraldine Monk,
whose poems Archer has set to music. However, Monk's actual contribution is
arguably minimal. She may or may not be a good poet (the printed evidence
is mixed), but even at its most beguiling, the density of her imagery and
ambiguity of her syntax (example -- "Peach-glad tree tips/night notes
throated/steep/fleeting/continual/ enwrap feet") does not translate well
into song. The occasional intelligible word breaks through the sonic and
linguistic barriers, but more often than not, the language of the songs
could just as well be Urdu or Basque. Credit instead the four vocalists,
Julie Tippetts, Steven Roden, Sedayne and Rachael McCarron, who were
commissioned by Archer to compose and arrange the twelve Monk poems, and
who animate the songs with their vocal presence.
With any strong direction absent from Monk's open-ended lyrics, musical
solutions on the CD are understandably varied. (I suppose Monk's lyrics
should receive indirect credit, at least, for presumably inspiring the
vocalists and guiding their strategies.) Veteran new music vocalist Tippets
is typically on the experimental edge, turning her four songs into abstract
but dynamic adventures in vocalese, trilling and wailing to the
accompaniment of Archer's rumbling, stuttering electronic treatments.
Tippetts offers the listener the greatest challenge, but also perhaps the
In contrast, Steve Roden's pieces are both vaguely sinister and quietly
beautiful. Roden's fragile counter-tenor, combined with Archer's electronic
scores (which extend to ghostly enhancements of Roden's voice), are a study
in contrast -- the poignant struggles of the human soul within a bleak,
futuristic environment. Rachel McCarron and Sedayne combine on their four
pieces, with Sedayne also playing crwth, a Welsh stringed instrument
somewhat equivalent to a bowed lyre. These pieces are the perhaps most
conventionally dramatic, although Sedayne's declamatory vocals may not be
to every listener's taste. As always, Archer's electroacoustic treatments
and blends of instrumental timbres and textures are fascinating in their
own right - a provocative mixture of the random, the alien and the
(Reviewer: Bill Tilland)