Ron Caines / Martin Archer / AXIS
Les Oiseaux de Matisse
UK DISCUS MUSIC DISCUS 72CD (2018)
To remember East of Eden as merely a one-hit wonder for the largely unrepresentative “Jig-a-Jig” would be a great disservice as Mercator Projected (Deram 1969) remains one of the greatest (in the true sense of the word) progressive albums crafted on these shores. And yet, post-split, there has been surprisingly precious little EoE-related activity, save for Grafitto, 2005’s comeback album. But then, Eden’s reedsman/mastermind Ron Caines resurfaced in 2009 with the Atlantide c.d. on the Brighton-based Foolproof Projects imprint, fronting a trio with double-bassist Marcus O’Dair and drummer Andy Pyne (also of Medicine & Duty a.o.). This, Ron’s second return, sees an alliance with Discus Records boss and multi-instrumentalist Martin Archer and suggests a union made in post-modern/digital jazz heaven, Martin being heavily influenced by the pioneering spirit found in the grooves of Mercator… and Snafu during his formative teenage years.
The diversity in those two albums is mirrored in Oiseaux‘s improvs, scored works and post-production collage, which are interpreted by what could almost be thought of as the Discus house band. The versatility of Cole, Garside, Hunter, Perez and Clarke becomes immediately apparent with “Labyrinth”. Sidestepping any lurking minotaur connotations, its bittersweet themes allude instead to British ‘b’ film atmospherics. With shoulders hunched, wearing a crumpled grey raincoat, collar up, Ian Hendry (a good a choice of actor as any…lest we forget…) trudges through the rain-soaked streets of Soho, winter of ’63. A flickering mood-piece that puts you right there. Low key magic. The following title track sees a rapid temperature rise to more summery realms with swirling multisax lines caught in a duet with sampled birdsong. “Nymphzurück”, a reupholstered version of EoE’s “Nymphenburger”, finds Graham Clark’s violin nonchalantly circling the stratosphere. Down below, the musicians, now reduced to six tiny dots on the landscape, evince “Elastic Rock”-era Nucleus (with Chris Spedding sitting this one out). A Caines/Keith Tippett collaboration “Various & Diverse” is of an ’83 vintage and is a more full-blooded concoction than the version found on “Atlantide”. And as we’re still on the subject of full-bloodedness, witness the ecstatic blast-off at the close of “Heavy Loaded Trane”, a tip of the beret to J.C. really couldn’t finish in any other way.
So, for a multiplicity of moods and tonalities, where an elder statesman’s expertise/finesse meets an adept of avant sound construction…simply ask the Axis! There’s also a nice touch from the cut’n’paste department; where the artwork on the actual disc has the Discus typeface reconfigured to resemble the Deram label of yesteryear.