Pure Water Construction

MARTIN ARCHER/SIMON H. FELL  Pure Water Construction

[full press reviews]


"The guest improvisers' contributions add several dimensions to a world of ideas already pushing the boundaries of modern composition. Sometimes extremely unsettled (and, indeed, unsettling), other times at least appearing more tense & controlled, and mostly, either way, evoking a wild mixture of emotions, this music is as simultaneously cathartic & expressive as the very components from which it's built. Once again, it seems as though Martin Archer and his collaborators have successfully created bridges between worlds previously barely imagined and illustrate just how clearly modern recording techniques can further harness such vision. The line between madness & genius may well be thin, but Martin Archer certainly knows how to parade a carnival along it." FOURTH DIMENSION "

"A splattercollage of improvised spurts digitally hammered together by Archer and Fell. If you find the random cut of programmed computer music jarring, then this isn't a place to linger. Stefan Jaworzyn's guitar occasionally rips into its viscera, which in itself is not exactly a pleasure, but hey, maybe you're not supposed to 'enjoy' it." David Keenan THE WIRE

"Like Simon H. Fell, Martin Archer has spent the last few years using sampled improvisations as the rich, timbral raw material for electroacoustic compositions, reinvigorating the stagnant world of electroacoustics with 'non-academic' strategies. Here, he and Fell base each part of their "electroacoustic suite" on a solo improv performance, manipulating this while adding other processed improvised and composed material. Part 1, based on Robin Hayward's tuba, sounds like a field recording from a shed full of old steam engines; the oddly foregrounded tiny percussives add delicate touches to an evocative piece. Rhodri Davies' harp is at the heart of Part 3, another highlight, where the sensitive, chamber-like expressivity of Archer, Fell and Charlie Collins gives the illusion of a fully real-time quartet interaction." Chris Blackford RUBBERNECK

"An exciting and skilful combination of improvised music and electroacoustic technique, realised with the benefit of modern digital sound processing technology. Fell and Archer display mastery of equipment, processes, sound quality and musicianship. They're joined here by an excellent team of players and old friends including the great Chris Burn (leader of the magnificent Ensemble), harpist Rhodri Davies, cellist Jenni Molloy, Robin Hayward, and Stefan Jaworzyn. The elaborate methods of sound-sculpting used on this recording demonstrate the care and attention of the organisers, and should win full marks for ingenuity, innovation and inspiration. Obviously not every improvising musician would necessarily agree to undergoing this form of treatment, since some of the alterations are extremely radical: varying not just their personal familiar sound, but the duration and continuity of their playing, disrupting that chain of clear thought in music that makes improv so unique. Not all improvisers should or could wish for such Soundscaping; but it is well that the players represented here have taken part in the experiment The results show it's paid off, as every track is a modernist gem of mournful, elegiac, deeply moving instrumental music. Take the Robin Hayward tuba work on Part 1, an episode in tension - quite literally breath-taking suspense! This close miking technique puts the listener right inside the bell of the instrument, as though the whimsical stoned-out daydream of Brian Wilson's George Fell Into His French Horn had become a reality. 'Cooler air moved in and was made welcome', muses Archer's interpretative text. Chris Burn's piano on Part 2 will also be made welcome, by all lovers of I 950s electro-acoustic - who can resist the unmistakable sound of backwards taped piano? 'Deliberately somewhat retro', comment the creators, 'but we really love those sounds.' Part 4 is probably my melancholy favourite for what it's worth...Molloy's cello versus Fell's double bass, vying inside a virtual reality digital battle arena watched over the .violin-wielding Archer behind the controls It depicts a slow and sad struggle, like music for some bitter middle-aged married couple rehearsing their weary arguments in their declining years. Part 4 is beautiful slow music; there's a strained, frustrated whimpering through filters; then a spaced-out howl punctuated with silences and white-noise breaths Part 5 features a Stefan Jaworzyn guitar solo with other players adding reprocessed drums, a drum machine and bass guitar - almost like rock music. Come to that I'd wager there are plenty of rock listeners who would prefer music of this untrammelled energy to some no-hoper garage band attempting to put together guitar music which the rock press would welcome as 'harsh and angular post-rock', but sadly they never think to look for it here. At length a series of mechanical, chattering, metal chunters plays along with an ensemble of other improvisers; the computer programme is collapsing, chance events have taken over and we descend into a lovely chaos, wallowing in sound events that never actually really happened, had no existence outside of the editing suite." Ed Pinsent THE SOUND PROJECTOR

"This is a fascinating, disc-filling piece in 6 movements, built on the improvisations of various performers. Their sounds, most of which are of the noisy "extended techniques" type, are in turn greatly processed, chopped, fragmented, garbled, spat or oozed out in music varying between violent bursting activity and eerie "ambient". It took a number of listenings for me to begin to comprehend the form and processes that take place throughout the composition. The program-notes include a quasi-surrealist text, which I found to be an enticing portal to try to make associative sense(s) of the music. They seem to form the only direct link to the title of the work. Indeed, hearing the piece as analogous to some sort of water-purification plant gone mad led to some enchanting associative listening experiences. That analogy especially seemed to spring to life from the arresting opening of Part 1. Part 2's sound source, the piano, is much more obvious, but nonetheless, with the processing and structural shaping done by the composers, the movement ends up being an interesting musical narrative. A wonderful, almost ritual moment occurs a little over halfway through Part 2, when wholly unprocessed piano finally appears (perhaps the first prominently unprocessed moment in the piece so far). A similar moment occurs in Part 3, when at the end, something resembling a "tune", played in a sort of heterophony, (a "messy unison" at once primitive and expressive), played by all of the movement's instruments breaks through the otherwise highly fragmented and processing-obsessed texture. I also enjoyed Part 4, which seems to return to the ambient mode of Part 2, featuring long, effective silences interspersed into the ambient, highly reverberated chordal materials, this time taken from a cello improvisation. It takes a while to get into this music, but soon, one grows to love the grungy sounds, violent rhythms, and ad hoc but always interesting form that make up Pure Water Construction." Christopher Bailey DIFFUSION

"Pure Water Construction starts - after a wonderfully hectic Part 0 which sounds like, but of course isn't, a group improvisation - with tubist Robin Hayward. His steam-train textures, overlaid with bells, motors which sound like running water and odd tapping sounds manages to hold the imagination for a good seven minutes before he moves into more conventional, note-based territory. Contributions from Chris Bum, Rhodri Davies, Jenni Molloy and Stefan Jaworzyn follow; each piece sounds incontrovertibly like its originator, and as one listens one really begins to get a sense of what Archer and Fell have achieved here. Keeping the integrity of each performance, they have transformed it into an impossibly sophisticated composition; a result which would be nigh-on impossible, anyway, using either composition or improvisation alone. Fell even crowbars in one of his trademark serialist jazz heads (Part 3), but on the whole the feel is similar to that of Ghost Lily Cascade, brooding, sombre and restless below the surface, with less in common with jazz than with electroacoustic composition. As a result of its methodology, however, the music on this disk is much closer to the familiar models of free improvisation than its predecessor. That, though, might just make it even more subversive in the face of all those improv purists who look on the studio somewhat as members of the Temperance Association used to regard the local pub. Whatever your preference, these are two beautiful, well-played, conceptually rich disks which come highly recommended." Richard Cochrane MUSINGS

"Stefan Jaworzyn unleashes some magnificent guitar...." Ben Watson HIFI NEWS & RECORD REVIEW

"Fell and Archer combine improvs with compositions to the point where neither of those categories seems to have much relevance. That's just fine. As the title suggests, this is decidedly industrial music. Or should I say the more fashionable word "soundscapes." If you were to walk through an active but peopleless factory and listen carefully... Well, you might occasionally think, "Wait, that's not meaningless noise, there's an intelligence behind these hummings and dronings and bleepings." And you'd be right. It sounds not quite like the machinery's been left running, but that something is using the machinery to make its own noise. If, however, you like the idea of the factory doing its take on what the humans do with the factory, then this is your ticket to the experimental shop floor." Richard Grooms THE IMPROVISOR

"A fine progression in Martin’s electro-acoustic exploits. Simon Fell brings his ability to find fluidity in the face of impending chaos, making the album a completed puzzle box. Attempt to take it apart and it’ll fall to bits... There’s a slew of people making albums with computers and found sounds, but the results are too often piece-meal in vision and effect, but with every album Martin expands his sonic vocabulary and editing skills. In Simon Fell he’s found an ideal collaborator. If you’ve heard any of Simon’s terrific free-jazz workouts, you’ll know his recordings and live work have always complimented and enhanced the playing of others. This time he’s brought out the best in Archer." PROGRESS REPORT

"If you can simply allow yourself to dig the intricate and sometimes outrageous juxtaposition of textures, patterns and timbres, it becomes a brilliant piece of work . . . . . Light years better than 99% of the sterile contemporary academic stuff that passes for cutting edge electro-acoustics today.....The things Archer can do with the sound of a piano are quite amazing, and in themselves offer ample testimony of his studio genius.....Aural treats abound.....The sort of recording that's going to offer surprise and delight every time out.....This CD is a rich, remarkable statement." Bill Tilland MOTION

"With this work Archer has documented his unique take on Euro Improv. The result actually sounds more live than some concert performances" JAZZ WEEKLY

"We would recommend to adventurous ears the excellent Pure Water Construction." THE PENGUIN GUIDE TO JAZZ ON CD


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