The Squid's Ear Magazine

Archer, Martin (w/ John Jasnoch / Sarah Farmer / Lee Boyd Allatson): Wasp Honey (Discus)

After participating in the Birmingham Improvisors Orchestra, wind improviser Martin Archer, bass guitarist John Jasnoch and violin & electronic musician Sarah Farmer were joined in the studio by drummer Lee Boyd Allatson to record this mix of compositions, graphic scores and free improv, merging AACM-style free jazz with contemporary chamber-oriented improv.

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product information:

UPC: 5051078998121

Label: Discus
Catalog ID: 138CD
Squidco Product Code: 33006

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2022
Country: UK
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold 3 Panels
Recorded at Discus Music Studio, in Sheffield, England, UK, on May 18th, 2022, by Martin Archer.


Martin Archer-sopranino saxophone, alto saxophones, flute

John Jasnoch-bass guitar

Sarah Farmer-violin, electronics

Lee Boyd Allatson-drums, percussion

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Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"John and Martin played with Sarah and Lee as part of the Birmingham Improvisors Orchestra, and quickly had the idea for this group - they lost no time in getting the quartet into the studio and spontaneously putting down this mix of compositions, graphic scores and improvisations, which hovers between AACM style free jazz, improvised music plus a hint of contemporary classical music."-Discus

"Another month and another Martin Archer collaboration. You have the feeling that the man never sleeps, adventures in sound flowing through his veins at all moments.

The thing is, the quality never seems to dip even when the variety is so great. Here, he reconvenes with old friend John Jasnoch on bass guitar, percussionist Lee Allatson and Sarah Farmer on violin and electronics.

The title of Wasp Honey is curious, as is the album artwork. The idea of wasps making honey lends the question if they did, how would it taste? Bitter? Sour? Is this album attempting to replicate the sensation of stumbling across wasp honey in another world? The artwork is mysterious and slightly threatening, so how will the music appear?

Group improv "Flood" opens the proceedings, a shadowy murmur, the violin a lonely cry. The instruments feel overwhelmed by the abandoned imagery and they carry through the echoing corridors, hallways emptied of obvious life. The sax feels full of hurt, although as things progress so each player rallies round, supporting, banding together, disparate energies finding a common goal. The sparseness of the sound allows the listener to infer much.

It is an intriguing opening gambit and you know that you are in for an ear-opening journey. On this album, John's bass has the loveliest tone, leading a reflective cymbal filled dance on "Two Way Traffic". A mellow turn, plucked violin hesitant, then the riff appears and Lee strikes out, lovely tom rolls gathering the momentum in both hands and coalescing around the fleeting, fleeing sax. The interaction is delightful and you feel they are safe indoors, away from threat.

The collisions at times sound accidental, but then something sparks one player to follow a thread and see where it leads. Someone may sit back and observe, allow things to unfold until their presence is right and then sweep back in; a sudden tumble of drums, a sweet swarm of sax notes or a romantic burr of violin. Woodland is viewed through shaded windows, a mere glance yet a whole physical yearning away. The refinement, the extraordinary patience speaks of hidden reserves, with Martin's keening notes high and fluid, often leading an attempt. The fact that it was all recorded in an afternoon is so impressive, an effortless mosaic of texture and pattern.

"Microagressor" is all about the low burn of bass depth and the simmering wildfire of percussion. There is a strange sense of constrained urgency, violin and reeds stuck in torpor; while "Swoon" has lachrymose violin against a constant pressure build of percussion. There is a pleasing solitude here, the violin hazing a layer of invasive drone, John's bass the warm heart just waiting for Martin to let rip and suddenly all the latent energy of the previous pieces is spent, little details noticeable as almost silence follows.

The larger album pieces are interspersed by solo snippets of a graphic score composed by Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere alum Walt Shaw and these act almost as palate cleansers. Weightless and animated sometimes, gruff sprinklings, some movements too quick to hear, all short and sweet but just waiting to be hung together.

the sweetest thingThe album closes with the title track, which is unexpectedly the sweetest thing here when perhaps I was expecting something else. The sax croons and although there is a hint of darkness in the creeping bass, it finishes Wasp Honey with a renewed outlook - although questions still remain."-Mr Olivetti, FREQ

Artist Biographies

"Martin Archer was born in Sheffield, England, in 1957. He started playing saxophone at age 15 and first got active on the Sheffield improvisational scene in 1973. In the early '80s, he recorded an LP with Bass Tone Trap, his first group. In 1983 he formed the saxophone quartet Hornweb, which, in ten years of existence, released three albums. It is during that time that Archer released his first solo album, Wild Pathway Favourites (1988) and founded the Discus label on which he since releases all his music.

In 1993, he disbanded Hornweb and turned to synthesizers and sequencers while shifting his activities from stage to studio. He developed a compositional approach in which he records improvisers soloing, then manipulates this raw material, combining it with electronics and structuring it into a whole new piece. This technique is illustrated on Wild Pathway Favourites, Ghost Lily Cascade (1996), and Pure Water Construction (with bassist Simon H. Fell, released in 1999). Later works such as Winter Pilgrim Arriving (2000) moved toward more constructed and less abstract pieces, even making room for melodies and rhythm tracks at times.

Apart from his solo work, Archer is also involved in Ask, a duo with guitarist John Jasnoch, and Transient v Resident, an ambient electronics project with Chris Bywater."-All Music, François Couture

"Martin Archer is a composer / improviser who is equally at home on stage or in the studio. His own distinctive saxophone playing is rooted in AACM jazz. Through his use of keyboards and electronics, and as a studio producer, he extends this interest into extended song form and leftfield rock music. He is also co-director of the uncategorisably avant choir Juxtavoices.

His principle music work is the Discus Music label, the imprint for his various releases, notably by the groups described below.

His current jazz based projects include Engine Room Favourites (current a 4 drummer, 14 piece big band), Story Tellers (6 piece group including shaman instruments alongside the conventional instruments), plus various ad hoc smaller groups. All of these are strongly aligned with AACM tradition and teaching.

Archer has a long running duo with veteran vocalist Julie Tippetts. Each of their highly acclaimed CD releases deliberately explores song from a different perspective - the duo aims to be truly progressive, and takes in elements from jazz, rock, soul and pure abstraction.

Archer's main live performance vehicle is the trio Inclusion Principle with Herve Perez and Peter Fairclough. The group operates in a space between electronics, nu-jazz, contemporary electroacoustic music and free improvisation. In performance you will hear pure jazz skill, electronic beats and areas of texture and abstraction all seamlessly woven into a fascinating and constantly shifting tapestry of sound.

The sprawling Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere was formed by Archer as an improvising rock group with shades of Terry Riley, Magma, Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra, very much in the progressive / krautrock tradition, and noted for its large scale string, horn and vocal arrangements.

Also in rock music, Archer is a member of the USA based heavier than plutonium prog / sludge / zeuhl group Combat Astronomy under the direction of Jamie Huggett.

Surprising, delighting and occasionally alarming audiences for a number of years now, Juxtavoices is a 30 piece choir for mainly untrained voices co directed by Archer with Alan Halsey which has racked up dozens of performances and issued three CDs.

This eclectic combination of sources and highly individual applications makes Archer a unique inhabitant of the school of English maverick composer / improvisers. "-Discus

-All Music, Discus Records (

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"John Jasnoch: 6 & 12 string acoustic, electric, electric soprano 12 string, lap steel, fretless baritone + tenor banjo & mandolin

Born: Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England, April 3rd 1953.

Began playing guitar 1967. After having spent a number of years in various areas of popular music (primarily 'folk', top 40 music and Country & Western), became involved with improvised music in 1978. Moved to Sheffield in 1979 and joined Sheffield Free Music Group. Subsequently joined 'new-wave/free-jazz' group Bass Tone Trap. Then went on to work extensively with (for example) woodwind player Charlie Collins in The Modum Quartet, The Bone Orchestra plus a regular duo and other ensembles; + Martin Archer in the electro-acoustic duo ASK and the extended sax quartet Hornweb.

In 1988, took part in Derek Bailey's 'Company Week' at ICA, London. Went on to play many concerts in UK, mainland Europe and North America both as a soloist and with various ad hoc ensembles (with, for example, LaDonna Smith, Davey Williams, Paul Lytton, Louis Moholo, Jeffrey Morgan, Erhard Hirt).

Current main activities are duo with instrument builder/sound artist Helmut Lemke and duo with drummer/percussionist Rob Dainton.

Approach to guitar is a multi-instrumental one utilising a number of types of guitar and guitar-variants (as is common with woodwind players). No interest in instrument preparation or alternative tunings - more interested in using conventional guitar language (as I understand it) in a creative way."


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"Sarah Farmer: Birmingham based artist and musician mostly working with sound,violins and improvisation. A poor woman's scientist and crafts person, taking an interest in questions of science and and technology and exploring them through hands on endeavours of making and sharing through a medium of sound, D.I.Y, found materials, wood and strings and the odd bit of electronics. Interested in site specific work, relational work, work that involves a lot of learning and researching - both receiving and sharing information, working in a way that facilitates learning about this stuff of life, our environments, our histories and possible futures, our materials and how we've gone about navigating these constant questions."

-Sarah Farmer Website (

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Lee Boyd Allatson is an English drummer. He was born in Leicester in 1970, but now lives in Market Harborough, South Leicestershire, UK. He is known for the groups Alto Stratus & Friends, Jackie Leven & The Stornoway Girls, Quadelectronic, South Leicestershire Improvisers Ensemble, Unfolk Collective, and Wasp Honey. Since 2009 he has run the Dye House Drum Works school providing drum lessons and drum equipment to many local players.

-Lee Boyd Allatson Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Flood 12:46

2. WSMay10-MA 2:03

3. Two Way Traffic 9:46

4. WSMay10-JJ 2:18

5. Troop 16:56

6. WSMay10-LA 0:59

7. Microagressor 4:16

8. WSMay10-SF 2:06

9. Swoon 8:22

10. Wasp Honey 1:59

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Electro-Acoustic Improv
Quartet Recordings
London & UK Improv & Related Scenes
New in Improvised Music
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