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ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE

RIO/Avant-Prog • United Kingdom


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Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere biography
A UK-based group ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE were formed in 2010 by Martin ARCHER and Chris BYWATER, with touchstone inspirations being their love of Magma, Terry Riley, Alice Coltrane, Stockhausen and Sun Ra, and their desire to create a large scale music which would be improvisation based but would also feature arrangements for massed voices, strings and horns. A process which they have named "Improg". The duo spent 2 years working on "Theta One", for which session players were brought in as required, with a central role being played by the 30 voice avantgarde choir Juxtavoices. After the completion of this album, it was decided to continue the group permanently with a lineup of Martin ARCHER (keyboards, horns, electronics), Chris BYWATER (keyboards), Yvonna MAGDA (violin, electronics), Jan TODD (voice, strings, electronics), Terry TODD (bass), Steve DINSDALE (drums, keyboards) and Walt SHAW (percussion and electronics).

Chris left the group after "Theta Three", and for "Theta Five" new members Lorin HALSALL (double bass, electronics) and Andy PEAKE (keyboards) joined the group. After the completion of "Theta Three", the group ceased to perform live, principally for logistical reasons.

Across the span of 5 albums the group has stayed with the core idea to improvise with an emphasis on repetition rather than soloing. The group methodology is to improvise collectively in the studio, and then to carefully edit and arrange the improvisations into their final form by adding composed material. The group has gradually become more self-contained over the years, with Juxtavoices playing a smaller part and Jan's multi-tracked voices playing a larger part being the main change.

Writing about "Theta Five", Chris Cutler (ReR) said "It's a rock-rooted aesthetic, but with acres of space for improvisation, sonic exposition and studio manipulation. Assembled (a lot like Unrest-era Henry Cow) through a process of focused improvisation, extensive editing, customized composition, many overdubs and radical mixing - the results are persuasive and full of musical substance. These are mostly long-form pieces - to sink into and follow as they twist and turn. There is no shortage of ideas. Best approached, I think, like an immersive live concert, with an aesthetic somewhere between the mid 60s and the mid 70s, - only much better recorded. Give it a try. If not now, when? Reminds me rather of H Cow - I listened as to a gig, no idea where it was going. ...
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ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE discography


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ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.00 | 1 ratings
Theta One
2012
4.00 | 1 ratings
Theta Two
2014
4.95 | 2 ratings
Theta Three
2017
3.50 | 2 ratings
Theta Four
2018
4.00 | 3 ratings
Theta Five
2020

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ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Theta Five by ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Theta Five
Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator 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.

 Theta Three by ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2017
4.95 | 2 ratings

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Theta Three
Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator PSIKE Team & Band Submissions

5 stars Don't ask me why, I won't explain it in a satisfactory way. Only can say that this one's still my favourite of the upper Theta series. So far, I can't imagine what will come next of course. Two and a half hour playing time, yeah, solely in this case! Hence this could be easily renamed to 'Theta Three Times' maybe. Brimful of challenging music stuff. A gorgeous hybrid of composition and improvisation. Mostly relaxing, the purpose is health cure. I mean, this alone can make your day, the medical dose certainly is sufficient. Just that listening session, and (nearly) everything will change. You won't need more to inhale before you go to bed in order to recover, to prepare for the next day. Caution, exceptions prove the rule, you know. The cinematic excursion Fictitious Force for example is equipped with definite horror atmosphere. You shouldn't stop here, never ever! The healing success would be in question then.

Just keep going, with An Excess Of Protons and the following krautrock infected Anisotropic Shapes they have arrived at an album peak for the first time, the appointed upper atmosphere. Wonderful! Surprise, the air doesn't get thin at all. On the contrary, they are getting their second wind. This is eclectic, and more, this is certainly avantgarde too. Hereby the orchestra is entering a wide range of prog subgenre meadows. 20 tracks, the result of just a few but very inspired recording sessions, I'm quite sure. Everyone is served. Even some restrained vocals respectively otherworldly voices are offered. What a revelation! Can't believe that they ever will be capable of repeating such an attempt once again.

United Kingdom based Martin Archer is the head of this experimental orchestra. He's mastering several instruments, just like diverse wind tools, keyboards, electronics aso. But this does not mean that he's driving everything on his own. Sure, after all it's an orchestra. So all in all twelve musicians are involved here, more or less. Symphonic strings, spacey ambient synthesizer, tricky electronics and samples everywhere, hypnotic grooves, hauting atmosphere on Tangential Force, the fusionesque Pororoca or Zeuhl infected Galleon ... wait! It's quite impossible to list all of those provided facets. You shouldn't miss that. Belated a bit, but now ultimately let me send out my CONGRATS to the upper atmosphere.

 Theta Five by ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE album cover Studio Album, 2020
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Theta Five
Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group 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.

Thanks to dAmOxT7942 for the artist addition.

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