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Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere - Theta Five CD (album) cover


Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere


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Avant/Cross/Neo/Post Teams
4 stars Pretty tasty. I love such a so-called uncategorized polylogical soundworld. A British act ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE (OUA) have been active as sorta 'studio-oriented musical collective' for about a decade. This album "Theta Five" was released as their 'fifth' (as the title says) album of their 'Theta' concept in 2020, featuring 4 long tracks bejeweled with a wide range of sound essence. It makes sense they have not gigged outside the studio for a long while because of such a complicated melodic / rhythmic construction in this creation. In addition, their musica and cultural diversity should ring our bells apparently. The founder Martin (ARCHER) says OUA were founded for launching "improg", or music in the progressive tradition but with a high degree of improvisation ... that I interpret also as a methodological combination of theoretical authentic progressive rock and sincerely simplified improvisational music. Effective utilization of Juxtavoices, or their original polyphonic choir, quirky electronic sound seasoning, and vigorous strings and horns, has been improving their creativity firmly.

The first shot "Obsidian (Overture)" is kinda surrealistic departure. Cynical melodic instability and fascinating premature electronic beats - each component is pretty weird but the holistic sound visuality via our auditory sense is mysteriously consolidated, leaning towards "Trixie Stapelton 291 - Se Taire Pour Une Femme Trop Belle" or "Gestation Sonore". Fruity and juicy indeed. The last "Zyxomma" has kinky atmosphere to drive us crazy, especially with an uptempo percussive basis and a mystic agitated chorus. This confusing sound approach reminds us of the similarity to Magma or Zeuhlic followers but simultaneously is not simple nor easy at all. Their dissonant ambience drenched in electronic fantasy sounds like sparkling beverages to stimulate our tongue and heart. The construction is simplified but cannot be digested out so easily. "Changeling" involves dissected rhythmic catalysis veiled in laidback aroma and wondrous choir flavour. Such a complicated sound transition and development is just like great Champagne that modifies flavour and taste day by day in a complex manner. The first touch is massively dreamy. Their Juxtavoices are comfortable and addictive really. The middle part keeps brilliant ambience and synthesizer- based colourful texture deeply in the bottom. The latter has incredible spacey vibes like Space Rock ensembles. Overall, improvised exposures and refined environmental approaches are fantastic as if Hawkwind meet Wapassou. "Pillared Space" gets started with extensive electronic movements plus dramatic intriguing voices. This soundscape arouses our interest and curiosity to the unknown world. The beginning of a mystery trip for the upper dimension. Harmonization by saxophones is another musical crystal. Beautiful and hallucinogenic repetitions by synthesizers, or incredibly sensitive chorus in the middle phase are tremendous. The 42 minute-long track is a bit redundant and challenging but there are lots of impressive and charming points in the longest stuff.

They could be called the unification of Krautrock and Avantgarde / Zeuhl. What a brilliance really.

Report this review (#2533232)
Posted Friday, April 9, 2021 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
4 stars I was having a conversation with Martin Archer a while back, and he said I really should be listening to bands on his Discus Music label, and in particular he wanted me to hear Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere. Therefore I am now listening to the fifth album in their 'Theta' sequence, and rather unusual it is too. Firstly we do have a somewhat strange mix of instruments with Martin himself providing saxophones, clarinet, flute, organ, Mellotron, software instruments, and voices and he has been joined by Steve Dinsdale (drums, synths), Lorin Halsall (double bass, electric upright bass, electronics), Yvonna Magda (violin, electronics), Andy Peake (Rhodes, synths), Walt Shaw (percussion, electronics), Jan Todd (vocals, voices, lyrics, harps, electronics, laptop, MIDI keyboards, bowed acoustic bass, glockenspiel, 12-string guitar, Korg wave drum, Idiopan) and Terry Todd (electric bass, acoustic 12-string guitar).

The result is music, which was improvised over a two-day recording period, and then reworked and rearranged with additional composed and vocal elements added, which in many ways reminds me of some of the albums by Robin Taylor with Taylor's Free Universe. Musically it is taking RIO, Zeuhl, jazz and modern classical, and throwing it all into a melting pot and seeing what comes out the other side. It is complex and complicated, and the combination of improvised and composed works means that it feels both free yet structured at the same time. There are no limits placed on any of the music, so the musicians go wherever they wish, and anyone can be taking the lead or providing support, or both.

There are only four tracks, which are mostly instrumental, but one of these is more than 20 minutes in length while another is twice that size. It is hugely experimental, yet also atmospheric and there is little in the sense of discord that we sometimes get with this type of music, yet it is still challenging in that one never knows where the journey is going to lead. It can be reflective or chaotic, repetitive, or taking on new elements as it twists and turns through the labyrinth of sound. This is not something which can be played gently in the background but needs some volume to it and listeners who are prepared to be challenged. This is not for those who want their music to be served to them neatly in a pigeonhole but is for those who want to be taken on sonic adventures where everything is possible.

Report this review (#2606922)
Posted Friday, October 22, 2021 | Review Permalink


chronological order | showing rating only
  • 4 stars Gordy (El Gringo del Mundo) SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Folk/Eclectic/PSIKE/Metal Teams
  • 5 stars dannyb
  • 4 stars Wuthering (Chris Young)


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