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 greatest rewards. 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 familiar. (Reviewer: Bill Tilland)