His early years were spent in Northern Ireland, living on the shores of the
Irish Sea. His most recent sojourns have been to Germany's Blackforest to create
his new album 'To The Pine Roots'. Now based in London, it would appear that a
sense of place is a thing that matters to Iain Archer and the poignant music he
creates. It can be heard literally throughout his work, the geography of 'Frozen
Northern Shores', the imaginings of 'Black Mountain Quarry', or the live
favourite 'Holywood Seapark'. And each new piece of work reveals a fresh sonic
This is no more clear than on Archer's latest album 'To The Pine Roots' which
was conceived and recorded in a cottage in the Scharzwald in southwest Germany.
A place of family connection, he found it the ideal escape from London's
churning industry, and somewhere that drew very special songs from him. His
family make beautiful appearances on the album with brothers, sisters, parents,
partners all singing at the key moments. 'To The Pine Roots' might be seen as a
return to his own roots - back to the stripped down sound of his earliest
records, but with a new clarity, some new sensibility.
Archer began his career with a move from Belfast to Glasgow in the mid 90's
where he made two albums with Sticky Records, an Ayrshire based indie label.
These early works led to him being invited to tour as support act to John Martyn,
where he formed a friendship with the legend and accompanied him on vocals. He
toured relentlessly and became known for his solo performances with stirring
vocals and guitar work. Radio and press picked up keenly on the releases.
Still the musical traveling bug took him off to explore new territory. Archer
felt he had more to say, and other ways to express it, and so a period of hiatus
and collaboration ensued. He took a job working in a homeless hostel in London,
which allowed him a window on another side of life and took away any pressure of
He set about rediscovering his muse. During this time he worked with a number of
artists including Fionn Regan, Juliet Turner, Jacob Golden, Reindeer Section and
Snow Patrol. Soon Archer was asked to join forces with Snow Patrol and spent a
year on the road and in the studio. During this time Iain was involved in
co-writing key tracks on Snow Patrol's soon-to-be breakthrough album 'Final
Straw', which would later earn him an Ivor Novello Award.
With new ideas forming, Archer signed a deal with PIAS Recordings to create his
third album 'Flood The Tanks', a spectral album of hushed melodies and yearning.
He moved to the south coast of England and spent a year gently carving it out.
Touring and press acclaim followed and a radio one single of the week with the
epic 'Summer Jets'.
Soon he was writing the follow up - 2007's 'Magnetic North' which Archer
co-produced with David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Joseph Arthur, Faultline) also
released on PIAS. Recorded in the idyllic setting of Jacob's Studios in Surrey,
25 years to the day that 'The Queen Is Dead' was recorded in the same room,
Magnetic North is an album of extremes. Much of it a reflection on Archer's home
of Northern Ireland, no less a place of extremes, the album used seascape images
to drift you over its powerful peaks and troughs. 'Canal Song' appeared on
monster US TV show 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Everything I've Got' on its off-shoot
'Private Practise'. Again, well received by the press, Magnetic North welcomed
acclaim in many circles.
There are inevitable questions when an artist has been associated with
spectacular international hits. For some it outshines other corners of the work.
But it is his will to travel musically that informs all of what Iain Archer is
about, both as a solo artist and a collaborator.
With 'To The Pine Roots' Archer has made his barest and most heartfelt work to
date, full of woody tones, distant birdsong and and an uncommon sense of hope.
The album was made a world away and it sounds like it. The breath of an old
harmonium, the ring of an ancient autoharp, poetry in word and note.
Lets hope the traveler's spirit stays with him.