The new chapter in the restlessly inventive adventure that is Archive arrives with Restriction (Dangervisit / PIAS – 12th January 2015). The album belies its title with another chronicle of powerful, illuminating, cinematic ebb and flow, drawing on multiple approaches and voices but with a cohesive spirit that’s unmistakably Archive. Since 1996, this dynamic collective has
The new chapter in the restlessly inventive adventure that is Archive arrives with Restriction (Dangervisit / PIAS – 12th January 2015). The album belies its title with another chronicle of powerful, illuminating, cinematic ebb and flow, drawing on multiple approaches and voices but with a cohesive spirit that’s unmistakably Archive.
Since 1996, this dynamic collective has remained almost stubbornly masters of their own destiny, preferring to inhabit their own world than ride prevailing trends, creating albums that are never less than epic. But if Restriction weaves through a dynamic and emotion-soaked 57 minutes, there’s a leaner, hungrier, direct edge this time, immediately established by the opening pair of ‘Feel It’ and the title track, and later on by ‘Crushed’. Archive’s gorgeous soulful selves
re-emerge with ‘Half Built Houses, ‘End Of Our Days’ and ‘Back And Blue’ while their more progressive side is exposed on the closing tracks ‘Greater Goodbyes’ and ‘Ladders’.
Founding members Darius Keeler and Dan Griffiths have again worked with multiple singers who are equally responsible for shaping these songs; it’s why Keeler insists Archive is more of a collective than a band. The four singers populating Restriction have all enjoyed an ongoing relationship with Archive’s core duo – that’s Dave Pen (who’s been an Archivist since their autumn 2004 tour), Pollard Berrier (he joined up on 2006’s album Lights), Maria Quintile (likewise Lights) and Holly Martin (who arrived for 2012’s With Us Until You’re Dead). “It’s important people don’t see it as ‘featured singers’,” says Keeler. “We’re all profoundly involved. That’s why the music sounds consistent.”
Restriction – released on Archive’s own Dangervisit label – follows only nine months from the collective’s last record, Axiom. An audio-visual project recorded in a spontaneous ten-day spurt and – given how Archive are invariably described as “cinematic” – suitably inspiring a short film to expand the album’s dystopian themes which was selected for screening at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. Restriction, however, is another beast entirely. “We didn’t plan this record before making it,” recalls Keeler. “It was important these new songs were separate entities rather than one thematic piece. We were writing continuously while promoting Axiom, and with four vocalists involved, we had lots of ideas to get out.”
Keeler says the songs bring varying themes. “’Feel It’ has a positive message, but ‘Kid Corner’ is inspired by a newspaper article about this place in America where you can buy guns for kids, which is pretty dark. The record documents a lot of frustration, so the title Restriction pulled it all together for us.”
As their titles suggest, 2009’s pair of albums Controlling Crowds (I-III and IV) had a strong political bent while 2012’s With Us Until You’re Dead was rooted in personal issues and relationships. Restriction draws on both threads. ‘Greater Goodbye’ (sung by Pen), ‘Crushed’ (sung by Berrier) and ‘Black And Blue’ (sung by Martin) approach love from three different perspectives. ‘Ride In Squares’ (like ‘Crushed’, a classic taut Archive thriller) is Berrier’s lament for “the squalor and hopelessness,” of places that gentrification has left behind, “where people don’t have a way out,” says Keeler.” Positive messages are unfortunately not one of our strong points. But if you feel something strongly, you have to say it.”
Rhythmically, Archive are equally single-minded. ‘Feel It’ is like a mutant hybrid of skiffle and dubstep. Keeler can hear elements of The Human League in ‘Ruination’ but the male/female vocal dynamic is pinned to dark, swirling undercurrents. This Hydra-style approach has been stealthily progressing since 1996’s Londonium, a recognised trip-hop classic. But if Archive’s roots are in south London, it was in continental Europe that the collective has found a huge and loyal audience as the collective progressively marched toward more diverse sounds and visions. That they haven’t yet transcended cult status in their own backyard is largely down to not having a UK record deal for most of the Noughties, until With Us Until You’re Dead was released by Dangervisit (via PIAS), and in May 2014 Archive sold out London’s prestigious Roundhouse. Home at last…
Keeler: “When you’re building a band, you go where the demand is. And it was so exciting to visit all these weird places in Europe! Much better than to be solely stuck in the UK, where the musical culture is so rich and responsive and changes all the time, but that means the press are always trying to find something new. So it’s nice not to have suffered from that!”
Restriction by name but not by nature, Archive’s adventure continues with a renewed zeal and energy, as hungry now as they have ever been.
Sunday, 15 March at 20.00
ARCHIVE Pre-Event: Screening of the film Archive – AXIOM