Updated: Aug 29, 2021
My first experience of Archipelago was a 15 minute showcase live set which left me with the impression that what I had heard was not fully formed. Those pieces have now developed and are included on the trio's new release on New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings. Echoes To The Sky brings together reeds, bass, drums and electronics to make a whole which seems much larger than the sum of its parts. In addition to the funk, punk and synth rock backing provided by John Pope's bass guitar & effects and Christian Alderson's percussion, Faye McCalman's tenor saxophone and clarinet move things in the direction of modern jazz and free jazz, but her singing voice is not typically 'jazz', sounding as though it stems from a more folk oriented background.
This is an interestingly constructed album; each piece differs drastically from the last. Wake Up with its upbeat sound and Hammond organ style backing is immediately followed by Wine Dark Sea, a slow pot-boiler with Pope and Alderson providing the most minimal of backings to McCalman's mournful tenor. Undercurrent is a short blast of techno squawk and percussion which could hark from any period from the 1970s onwards. Chemical starts with a slow repeating motif before launching into up-tempo free jazz backed with a strong funky bassline which is in complete contrast to the spare improvisation of Silhouette which acts almost like an introduction to the album's closing track Burn On, which slowly builds from McCalman's vocal opening and which gradually build to a climax of clarinet, bass and percussion before a looped fade brings the album to a close.
The music that I heard at that showcase gig has been nurtured and has developed into an extremely mature and rewarding album by three musicians who clearly have a strong musical bond and the chops to back it up.