“Call To Arms & Angels”: the black beauty of Archive in a new album

We loved trip hop so much, this magic current mixing electronics and soul jazz, which, during the 1990s, blew over England and gave us many masterpieces, from Blue Lines from Massive Attack to Dummy of Portishead. In 1996, an unidentified object struck this floating landscape: Londinium by the group Archive is a sumptuous ghostly journey through the English smog between heart-rending violins and dark keyboards. An exceptional disc.

Shortly after, its leader Darius Keeler, following his sentimental problems with his singer Roya Arab, announces the dissolution of his formation then its reconstitution a few months later, a violent policy of blasting and depressions which will finally save the project. osteoarthritis and the cemetery, and make it very productive. From then on, the machine will devour many singers treated like decorations in its dizzying sound architecture. She turns on the wing, abandons trip hop for titles of breathtaking beauty like You Make Me Feela hovering and dark psychedelic rock interspersed with beautiful romantic melodies, Good-bye Where Againreminiscent of Pink Floyd.

Archive offers increasingly epic songs, built like rockets whose stages burn one by one, detaching, propelling the upper part towards the moon. These winding odysseys put the listener on hold. What’s going to happen ? What marvelous, starry country will he discover?

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This spirit of adventure makes Archive one of the most exciting rock collectives of the last thirty years, one of the few to be unreasonable. And this sense of risk carries and crosses this thirteenth album, Call To Arms & Angel, written after six years of silence and whose publication was postponed due to the shortage of raw materials. Darius Keeler and Danny Griffiths also suffered from Covid-19 and successive crises. Their call to arms and angels recorded at the RAK studio, in London, bears the wounds, the madness.

Sitting on a pile of ashes

Once again we roam the murky waters of dystopia 1984 by George Orwell, Darius Keeler’s favorite novelist, where nuclear fear, video surveillance and Newspeak shape paranoia. We also find the signature of the group, the beauty of its female voices. Three singers, Holly Martin (who was only five at the time of Londinium), Maria Q, and Lisa Mottram, seated on a pile of ashes, play the Iphigenia promised to the stake.

What takes us on board, as always, is the magnificence and splendor of the melodies, surrounded by an iron portcullis. The disc opens with a lovely winter landscape, Surrounded By Ghosts, where the Welshwoman Lisa Mottram enchants. The ghosts are those of death, of cities emptied by the pandemic, drowned in silence and shadows. Then arise Mr Daisy and its nauseating scent, followed by Fear There & Everywhere, monsters lost in a mechanical universe full of silvery and sparkling echoes. Then Numbersrobotic title carried with coldness by the obsessive singing of Holly Martin.

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If sumptuous ballads illuminate the disc, taken to the pianos (Shooting Within, Head Heavy, Freedom), Archive would not be Archive without these river journeys that alternate moments of reverie and meteor showers. Daytime Coma embarks us for fourteen minutes of navigation with these three insistent and hypnotic piano notes on which roll up, like venomous snakes, threatening layers of keyboard, a song in suffering.

The powerfull enemy and its eight minutes also begin serenely, before the storm explodes. However, the writing never loses the clear and fluid line of Britpop despite the cubist sound context in which the symphony navigates. All That I Have is even one of the most bewitching romances they have composed, with the heavy presence of black clouds in the distance. The sky remains overcast, but the sweetness wins out over the mechanics, the angels eventually defeat the weapons in the magnificent final climax. Gold. “There are tears of love that last longer than the stars”, wrote Charles Péguy. Like the impression that this monumental record leaves us. More than an impression from elsewhere, a shock.

Archive, Call to Arms & Angels available in all formats, Dangervisit / PIAS.

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“Call To Arms & Angels”: the black beauty of Archive in a new album

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