Archive – “With Us Until You’re Dead”

by marcopantella

ar·chive [ahr-kahyv]


1. Usually, archives. documents or records relating to the activities, business dealings, etc., of a person, family, corporation, association, community, or nation.

2. any extensive record or collection of data: The encyclopedia is an archive of world history. The experience was sealed in the archive of her memory.

From their 1996 album “Londinium” to their brand new “With Us Until You’re Dead”, opening the file of British musical band Archive means opening a world of different documents made of different musical styles, different band members (actually they are more a collective than a band), and vocals that translate the emotions of their trip-hop infused melodies, always contaminated by electronic and progressive rock. This time, another document is filed in the archive: orchestral music.

Founding members Darius Keeler and Danny Griffiths describe their eight studio album as a personal record made of love songs. Don’t be misleaded by this statement, it is not an easy listening, and it is not “Take My Head” or “You All Look the Same to Me”, in my personal opinion their best records. The dark side of love is explored here, how it wears you down mentally, how dangerous it is, and ultimately how the most secret and deepest emotions we can experience in life sprung from it.

The first single, “Wiped Out”, opens the record with an avant-garde ambient atmosphere before turning into a more psychedelic and progressive style. This is only a preview of what the album has in store, songs that take unexpected turns, resulting perfect on their own thanks to a collective contribution of 12 members, bringing their own unique talent to this complex symphony.

The line “You died in front of me” in the opening track, somehow fits later on into “Violently”, the second single, where the soulful voice of new vocalist Holly Martin sings “It died in me, so violently, quietly”. Her voice is as emotional as the one of Clare Torry in “The Greatest Gig In The Sky” by The Pink Floyd . If perfection exists it is in this 6:25 minutes track.

As love is the driving force, “Stick It in My Heart” shows this through tender, abandoned, sweet vocals and lyrics “everything that is, is love about you”. “Conflict” sounds like a solemn liturgy, it is haunting, it screams, and in the storyline of the album it feels like an epiphany: “conflict is a part of us until we’re dead”. No better way to title the album.

Drums intro for “Interlace”, orchestra outro for “Conflict”. Archive played live with orchestras before and listening to how they melt orchestral music with synths is a pure and mesmerizing experience. It is a real treat if you want to listen to and you are up to something different and new. As if it isn’t enough, “Calm Down” is another magical moment, simply instrumental as words are useless here. Love permeates the melody leading to a once again enchanting performance by Holly, along the strings arrangement of “Silent”.

“If I had a pistol it would be yours to have, no amount of pain would ever stop me coming back to you”. Simply sick and mental as love is for The Archive, “Hatchet” brings the album close to an end. “Damage” is essential and provocative in The Archive style of their 2006 album “Lights” and the closing track “Rise”, abruptly and peacefully ends on “We grow in love, step towards my dear. We’ll start again”.

It has got elegance, attitude, and drama, both musically and lyrically. You only have to listen because words step back when something as good as this is produced and for me there is no other way to describe it if not by saying that it is a trip, making you feel under the effect of some sort of drug. This is love, this is the success behind every of The Archive’s albums.