Martin Archer

Photograph copyright Jo Fell

Born 1957, in Sheffield, Yorkshire; composer, saxophones, synthesizers.

Martin Archer has been active in creative music as a composer, performer and recording artist since 1980. Originally a saxophonist influenced principally by Evan Parker and Anthony Braxton, Archer has moved toward electronics and new music technology in the 1990s. As a composer he is interested in organising sound material rather than in producing notated music, with emphasis on the interaction between composed, improvised and random events in the music, believing strongly that the area of greatest interest occurs when space is given for creative musicians to make a personal statement within a pre-existing framework. Archer's compositions increasingly use chance, which will always create an exciting musical event that no amount of planning could engineer.

Since 1980 Archer has performed many concerts of improvised music in one-off situations, and was involved in Company Week in 1988. However, his main work has been in the context of his own groups and recordings. The first of these, from 1980 to 1984, Bass Tone Trap, emerged from the fertile improvised music scene in mid/late 1970s Sheffield, being a six piece electric jazz group for which Archer was principal composer. Moving between free abstraction and punk-informed rhythmic velocity, the group was unusual in its combination of virtuoso jazz musicians and untrained 'naives'.

The Hornweb Saxophone Quartet was, from 1983 to 1993, Archer's principal vehicle during its decade of work. Although operating as a quartet for the majority of several hundred UK and European concerts, the group remained flexible. Sixteen was a suite of compositions for various line-ups making full use of studio technology, while later performances saw the addition of trumpet, trombone, bass or guitar. Hornweb's final recording, The Venona Breaks was an extended piece for 9 instruments including woodwind, brass, piano and percussion.

Following the break-up of Hornweb in 1993, Archer made a move away from live acoustic music in favour of a creative use of new music technology. Transient v Resident (Archer and Chris Bywater, synthesizers and electronics) is informed by all aspects of electronic music, from the abstractions of the classical avant-garde to the excitement of the techno and new ambient movements, via the classic experiments of the German synthesists in the 1970s. The duo has recorded two CDs, Electrical Shroud and Medulla. In 2000 TvR evolved into a five piece group, and renamed itself Atlas, with the addition of Benjamin Bartholomew (guitars), Foster (bass guitar), and Paul Hession (drums), and has shifted emphasis toward live rather than recorded music.

In 1993 Archer formed Ask (Archer, synthesizer, saxophones; John Jasnoch, guitars). The duo has recorded one CD, Disconnected bliss (1998) to date, which features studio created compositions based on improvised source material.

Also in 1993, Archer began the Network CD project, editing 55 short pieces from disparate sources into one continuous flow of music. A second volume appeared in 1995.

A collaboration with writer Geraldine Monk and singer Julie Tippetts began in 2001, and the first CD Angel High Wires was issued in the same year.

The majority of Archer's work is issued on his own Discus record label and distribution network.


Further information

Archer, Martin (1994). Notes and misunderstandings. Rubberneck, no. 16, pp. 36-41.


1984, Trapping, BTT Records 1. Bass Tone Trap.
1986, Kinesis, Cadillac SGC 1014. Hornweb
1987, Sixteen, Ladder rung001.Hornweb
1988, Wild Pathway Favourites, Ladder rung002.
1989, Report from Coastal Stations, BTT 6 (cassette).
1989, Universe Works, Discus 2LP. Hornweb
1992, The Venona Breaks, No Music no. 1 (cassette).
1993, Broken to be more beautiful, Discus 01 cassette. Transient v Resident
1994, 4 static music examples Transient v Resident
1994, Network, Discus 3CD.
1994/1996, Ghost lily cascade, Discus 4CD.
1994, Network: volume two, Discus 5CD. Includes a number of short pieces in different groupings.
1995, A game of poker with Morton Feldman, Discus 6CD. From a compilation of electroacoustic works.
1995/1996, Electrical shround, Discus 7CD. Transient v Resident.
1996/1997, Disconnected bliss, Discus 8CD. Ask.
1996/1997, 88 enemies, Discus 10CD.
1997, Pure water construction, Discus 11CD.
1998-1999, Winter pilgrim arriving, Discus 12CD.
2002/4, The formulary of curses, Discus 16CD. Ask.
2003/4, Heritage and ringtones, Discus 18CD.
2003/4, Saint Catherine torment, Discus 19CD. Masayo Asahara.
2007/8, Ghosts of gold, Discus 37CD. Julie Tippetts/Martin Archer.
2009, The leaf factory fallback, Discus 38CD. Inclusion Principle.

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