Who would have guessed that British singer and actress Julie Tippetts, known for her work with organ great Brian Auger; affiliations with Rod Stewart and recordings with husband, pianist Keith Tippett would lead to her alliance with avant-gardist Martin Archer. Stranger things have happened as they say, yet with the follow-up to Ghosts of Gold (Discus 37CD, 2009) the vocalist's charismatic contributions yield additional rewards.
The two-disc set offers a multifarious rendering of electric-acoustic frameworks. At times ethereal, solemn, and lyrically resplendent, each piece intimates a new perspective for the mind's eye. Archer's abstract woodwinds work is often moderated by his melodic intervals along with the ensemble's keenly placed electronics treatments. It's a bizarre fairyland, spanning avant house-music, kaleidoscopic themes, and off-center rhythmic variations. Thankfully, the musicians toss in some lighthearted musings, so it's not an overly austere presentation.
On "At the View from Finintor," Tippetts' bluesy and multilayered vocals ride above drummer Charlie Collin's tumbling tom-tom beats and asymmetrical grooves. Archer, performing on sax, harmonizes with the vocalist to complement his hip Fender Rhodes work. During various passages, the musicians sculpt drifting plots and unsettling motifs, although the differentiator equates to the band's manner of conveying innocence. Moreover, they morph polytonal effects with spacey dreamscapes and oscillating fragmentations. And Tippetts mystical vocals in "Fininridge," help cast a rather troubling vista in concert with Chris Sharkey's foreboding guitar licks.
Besides the fact that Archer and Tippetts cover quite a bit of ground on this program, they manage to instill a personalized, storybook-like premise throughout. With an abundance of deviations, sound-shaping mechanisms and off-kilter phrasings, the artists align a potpourri of colors into standard practices. With subliminal inferences to folk, jazz, rock and blues, they engineer a sequence of musical statements that redefine the tried and true as additional listens divulge newfound pleasantries.