Martin Archer - English Commonflowers (CD Discus)
After a long and miserable winter the Sun's finally making a rare appearance so it's the right time to finally play an album that, initially and teasingly, harkens back to summer days of old. Rolling fields, buttercups ('do you like butter?') and simpler days before ferocious consumerism stamped its jacket boot on it all.
The first track, 'I'm Yr Huckleberry', sets the misleading scene. Shiny sunny days; good days of melody and as easy drift. Then Archer begins to peel away the veneer of nostalgia to reveal an all together more complex and less rose-tinted memory. The further down the layers we go, the darker the shadows. There's little chance of taking things, memories, for granted. A truer account emerges which enriches and wrong-foots in equal measure with its recalling.
Hearing the melodic lines lulling you into complacency is all the more enjoyable when it clicks that you're actually being led into the darker side of the alley. And what could be subtly darker than the cover of Nick Drake's 'Know'? The acoustic and the processed come together. The vocal replaced by an electronic sheen. Past and present; the present and a changing memory of the past.
The most pleasurable listen is the skittish 'Mall Bunnies', a reference to happy shopping-precinct shoppers. The extended track is like coming to a comatose halt in a shopping precinct and letting your brain slowly fragment until….. Christ, a bloody great behemoth of an electric guitar grunts and roars in your face giving you awareness what you're feeling and where you are.
This one's from the electro-acoustic side of Archer's brain. Not one for the hardcore jazzers. It's more of an evolving soundtrack. Keyboards, processing, double basses, trombones glockenspiels and saxes abound.
The cover is an illustration of most assuredly uncommon flowers ripped out of an old book (perish the though.) HM