Axiom is the latest project from the constantly involving society that meet under the name Archive. This latest creation is a concept-album, which will be complimented with an accompanying film by Jesus Hernandez and NYSU.
Dave Pen’s vocals and synthesised strings introduce us to a world beyond a great trauma; a place that leaves us ‘searching for feelings of the tears,’ and it is from this opening curtain our guide leaves us as the title track starts the journey, perhaps the start of reason? The 6/8 time signature and even pendulating chimes set the momentum and march. We are then abruptly halted with Baptism, with its spread piano shimmers intensifying until distorted guitars and powerful drums lead us forward. Passing the midway point of the next track Transmission Data Terminated, Archive’s original influences, born of Bristol trip-hop in the early 90’s, reveal themselves with a vocal by Holly Martin straight from the Martina Topley-Bird school of delivery.
The programme of the record utilises some traditional format techniques. From an album exorcising its spirit mostly through minor sequences, the playlist climaxes in its penultimate track, Shiver, with major tonality and resolved lyrical statements. The central theme is reinvigorated at the close with a reprise of the title track, using the (ever-faithful to the genre) chimes of church bells once more, this time, rather than starting proceedings, concluding them.
Many aspects of this record paint a distopic world. The arpeggiated motifs, rigid mathematical playing and tight studio production describe an environment to claustrophobic to individual celebration. The relentless heavy industrial instrumentation and sampling expresses a machinery leaving the voices fighting for life, until the concluding description in the lyrics is ‘no-one seems to matter anymore.’
Darius Keeler, the originator of the group, has travelled with Archive for 20 years, and the perfection in instrumental performance and creative musical design, from him and his collaborators, is faultless. No portion of this experience is left to chance. The lyrics, as with many groups consumed in making progressive music, get a little left behind. Such signposts as in Baptism (‘Pull me under’ and ‘Leave the water’) are on the fringe of patronising the listener’s ability to interpret the musical story for themselves, but thankfully the vocal performances and musical environment vitalises them beyond their written meaning. This cycle leaves the mind with distinct images and narratives. May the film broaden the idea further.
Reviewer: Tom Hollingworth