101CD - Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere - Theta Five

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The fifth album by this adventurous improvising rock group. This time round an expanded 8 piece version of the band improvised in the studio for two days in October 2019. These live recordings were extensively reworked and arranged over the following months with the addition of composed vocal and instrumental material. The end result is the band’s most expansive and adventurous work to date, with a greater emphasis on improvisation not seen since the band’s first album – but the improvised elements are contrasted strongly with the rhythmic and lyrical passages where the voice and some tighter structures come to the fore.

“The large ensemble harnesses a hybrid patchwork of electro-acoustic textures that brings to mind the spacey explorations of Alice Coltrane, Terry Riley, Tangerine Dream, Can et al. Choirs, choppy strings, throbbing beats, dreamy vocals and snarling bass rise and soar into bold themes creating a diverse and thrilling listen.” - SID SMITH, PROG


Martin Archer – saxophones, clarinet, flute, organ, mellotron, software instruments, voices
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 keys, bowed acoustic bass guitar, glockenspiel, 12 string guitar, Korg wave drum, Idiopan

Terry Todd – electric bass guitar, acoustic 12 string guitar



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Another patient - and prolific - source of high quality music now operating at a moderately indispensible level, is Martin Archer’s Discus Records (whom we also have to thank for the recent Keith Tippett releases). This is the fifth record from TOOTUA, now an 8-piece (acoustic and electric basses, drums, horns, harp, Mellotron, violin, organ, a lot of electronics and some voice). 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.  Great record, rare these days. - Chris Cutler ReR



The group plays a groundbreaking mix of psychedelic progressive rock, mesmerizing electronics, avant-garde classical and jazz improvisation.  Effortlessly combines acoustic and electric instruments along with captivating vocals to deliver a fascinating set of adventurous musical pieces. - Progressive Rock Central




The raw materials for OUA's fifth album comes from just two days studio playing.  The group......features a number of multi instrumentalists but their music is remarkably uncluttered.  The rhythm section get funky with additional double bass.  Jan Todd's wordless vocals drift in and out while Martin Archer's eerie mellotron looms up in the background.  Their approach has a kinship with Miles Davis circa Bitches Brew, Amon Duul II's Yeti or Ummagumma era Pink Floyd.  At 42 minutes, Pillared Space is an album within an album, a vast landscape with tom-tom patterns occasionally racing across the soundfield, small chamber groups gathering in clearings surrounded by gleaming synths, and there's even a song in the middle.  The piece builds up to a beautiful conclusion with Terry Riley-esque echoed sax and vocal chorales, all of which typifies the ego-less empathy of this truly remarkable group. - Mike Barnes, PROG



This is the 5 disc from this unique UK octet. This disc is pretty long (79 minutes) and is filled with many wonders. "Changeling" has a spacey, prog-like sound complete with the ancient psych/prog sound of a mellotron and sparkling synths. Instead sounding cheesy or dated, the music has a fresh, old school progressive rock/classical/jazz sound which is most enchanting. There are no vocals on the first two songs for those who care. Although this is an octet, the music is still stripped down nicely. The main sound here is mostly: electric piano, synths, saxes, violin, bass and drums with occasional processed vocals floating on top. This disc was recorded live in a studio and has an especially warm, charming sound. Practically all members of this ensemble play synth or electronics, yet these sounds are well blended, never too dense or too weird, the way some experimental music can be. "Pillared Space" is an epic album length work (42 minutes), which has some hypnotic, spacey sounds with layers of floating synth(s), soft voice, electronics, mellotron, another keyboard, flute and skeletal drums. Drummer Steve Dinsdale sounds especially inspired here, whipping up a rhythmic cushion underneath the octet. This piece has a section later on for some charming proggish female vocals and 12 string acoustic guitar. The dreamy aspect of this music actually feels nice, calm at the center with some occasional cosmic swirls. Good music to drift away by especially after a day of venting frustration from the right wing propaganda media which pervades from our cellphones and computers. - Bruce Lee Gallanter, DMG 



"Θ5" (Theta Five) ist da! An zwei Tagen im Oktober 2019 traf sich das Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere im Studio, um weitestgehend improvisierend die Musik für das fünfte Album einzuspielen. Das Orchestra wurde dazu um zwei Mitspieler erweitert; insbesondere hatte man mit Andy Peake wieder ein hauptamtlichen Tastendrücker gefunden. Die Aufnahmen wurden in den nachfolgenden Monaten von Martin Archer umfangreich bearbeitet, um weiteres Material ergänzt und fertig abgemischt. Im Oktober 2020 erschien das Album bei Discus Music auf CD, die wie immer in einem hübschen Pappfaltteil steckt.

Einen veritablen Fast-40-Minüter hat das OUA hier am Start. Von Labelseite teilt man auch dementsprechend mit, dass es sich bei "Θ5" um das bisher ausladenste und abenteuerlichste Werk der Formation handeln würde. In Bezug auf "Pillared Space" stimmt das wohl, zumindest was die Länge anbelangt. Ich würde nun aber nicht sagen wollen, dass die ersten vier Alben der Gruppe weniger abenteuerlich (progressiv, kreativ) waren. Und, die ersten drei Werke des Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere waren deutlich umfangreicher.


Gut gefüllt ist "Θ5" aber natürlich trotzdem. Das gewohnt abwechslungsreiche, stilistisch schwer eingrenzbare, farbig instrumentierte und sehr virtuos und klangvoll vorgetragene Gemenge aus Jazzrock (mit Canterbury-Atmosphäre), Elektronischem, Retroprogressivem (inklusive Mellotron), komplexem Ensemblerock und freierem Tonbasteln hat das OUA auch auf diesem Album im Angebot. Voluminöse Tastensounds und diverse Elektronikklänge bilden die Grundlage der Musik, bisweilen im krautigen Geiste kantig dahinströmend, in die allerlei Perkussion, trötend-flötende Bläserklänge, Bassknurren, knarzende Geigenlinien (all dass bisweilen effektverfremdet und bearbeitet) und auch einiges an menschlichen Lautäußerungen eingewoben sind. Sehr dynamisch und dicht verwoben arbeiten sich die Nummern voran, mal frei wogend, mal kantig lärmend, mal schwungvoll rockend, mal kosmisch schwebend, mal jazzig tanzend.


Vielleicht ist die Musik wirklich ein Stück freiformatiger geraten und wirkt improvisierter als auf den vier Vorgängern. Nicht selten wuseln hier die Klänge jedenfalls recht schräg durcheinander, ohne allerdings das Ziel aus den Augen (den Ohren) zu verlieren. Recht schnell arbeiten sich jeweils wieder perkussive Muster, lyrische, oft von Gesangseinlagen bestimmte Passagen, oder retroorientierte Canterburyprogreminiszenzen nach vorne. Eine Art Free-Jazzprog ist das meist, der ein wenig an die ähnlich ausladenden Ensemblewerke eines Keith Tippett gemahnt (siehe "Septober Energy" und "Frames"), oder an ausgedehnte Livenummern von Henry Cow erinnert. Deutlich elektronischer ist die Musik des Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere aber ausgefallen, direkter und rocklastiger, vielleicht auch ein wenig vielschichtiger (und moderner) in Bezug auf die verwendeten Klangfarben.



Mit "Θ5" haben die Damen und Herren um Martin Archer ein weiteres starkes Album vorgelegt, welches sich klaren Genrezuweisungen entzieht, aber sicher zur progressivsten Musik gehört, die heutzutage im erweiterten Rockumfeld erzeugt wird. Wer sich für solcherart Klänge interessiert, keine Aversionen gegen jazzig-rockiges bzw. freieres Klangbasteln hat, der/die sollte "Θ5" nicht verpassen. Demnächst dann "Θ6"? - Achim Breiling, BABYBLAUE SEITEN



Sheffield-based Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere delivers its fifth album. We are talking of a project with a focus on improvising rock that was started by multi-sided musician Martin Archer around 2012. For this occasion the band is expanded up to eight musicians: Martin Archer (saxophones, clarinet, flute, organ, mellotron, software instruments, voices), 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 keys, bowed acoustic bass guitar (on Obsidian), glockenspiel, 12-string guitar, Korg wave drum, Idiopan) and Terry Todd (electric bass guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar). The CD consists of four tracks. Opening track ‘Obsidian’ is a richly textured soundscape, preluding and indicating in seven minutes the spaceways being travelled this time. Following is the 20-minute track ‘Changeling’ starts from a slow groove with mellotron in the forefront. After a few minutes, the beat-driven music accelerates with jazzy motives introduced by the blowers. Halfway violin and other strings introduce a new chapter. Nearing the end keyboards take the lead. ‘Pillared Space’ is an oversized 42-minute journey. This one feels very improvised. Constantly progressing in a searching and hinting mode. Halfway appears a song with beautiful vocals by Jan Todd. I’m old enough to have nostalgic feelings listening to this album and also feel sympathy for their undertaking that departs from 70s-based musical forms: electronic, fusion, Canterbury, progressive rock, improvisation. It was this decade that recording long spun-out music became common praxis due to the possibilities of the lp-format. The spun-out explorations by Archer and his mates have fine arrangements and colouring in. Surely it is not a pure retro-motivated trip, but they are also not very eager to discover new territories. Nevertheless, a solid statement of dedicated musicians sharing the same dream. The live improvised session was recorded on two days in October 2019 in the studio. Afterwards, the material was reworked, etc. – Dorf Mulder, VITAL WEEKLY



The 5th album from the UK collective improvising progressive rock band, merging acoustic and electronic instruments in rich and often dreamlike forms that flow with spirited refinement. . – SQUID’S EAR



Pour son 5ème album, ils sont 8 : les musiciens de l’ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE. « Theta five », est le fruit de deux jours d’enregistrements en improvisation, en octobre 2019, complété par des mois de travail de montage, d’arrangement, d’adition de matériel vocal et instrumental composé. Ceci afin d’arriver à l’album le plus abouti du groupe. Le résultat : 4 morceaux pour un total de près de 80 minutes de musique avec des passages planants à souhait, dont un morceau de 42 minutes !  - Guy Stuckens, Radio Air Libre