ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE
(2020 - Discus Music UK)
Imagine a grand combination of classic 70's gems 'Islands' by King Crimson, 'In Search Of Ancient Gods' by Absolute Elsewhere, but a far more ghostly version of those, plus some acid influenced Andreas Vollenweider (addng Harp), a good dose of Krautrock exploration, and that notable fuzz toned Canterbury minus the vocals of 1969 diamond Arzachel. This begins a more involved description of the tapestry Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere weave in their fifth release on the outstanding Discus Music label. The addition of Jan Todd's otherworldly voice (much like her Frostlake albums) brings in even more dimension and mystery. The electronics are first-rate and the ability of the band to create a well organized balance of space, time, and density is amazing. That covers the first two tracks.
The equal musicianship of Martin Archer (keyboards, electronics, saxophones, clarinets, flutes, recorders, melodica, voice), Steve Dinsdale (electronic drum kit, synth), Jan Todd (vocals, lyrics, electronics, celtic harp, luke harp, korg wave drum, keyboards, bowed electroacoustic bass, idiopan), Yvonna Magda (violin, electronics), Walt Shaw (acoustic percussion, electronics, voice), Lorin Halsall (double bass, electric upright bass, electronicsand), Andy Peake (Rhodes piano, synths), and Terry Todd (bass and electroacoustic bass guitars) bring about a magical chemistry not found too often in groups this size. Fans will notice an 8 piece outfit this time. With a match of playfulness, spacious groove, and flowing exploration (the tripping type), 'Theta Five' gives the listener another spectacular aural pleasure. The musicians involved have extensive backgrounds in many genres, including free jazz, smart improv, electronics, various fusions, and of course all the styles I already mentioned in this review. This album was started with totally improvised sessions, then later (over months) honed and made richer with vocals and some composed parts. Thus, the whole is full of spark and elation.
All the pieces are extended (there are only four) but the one of greatest length ('Pillared Space' 42:03) really dives deep into the celestial beyond, with about as a psychedelic journey as ever was created (even from those wondrous early 70's gems), plus added acid folk doses, more heavenly vocals by Jan Todd, which takes you back to the 60's paisley folk era full of the innocence and dreams we all once had. Soon enough though, comes distortion and a bit of chaos, still keeping a lost in space atmosphere. This stuff really blasts off into unknown orbits, and the audience is given a thrill ride, then calm, and surprise, and calm, and a world full of colors, emotions, and peace, after the many events. The last work ('Zyxomma' 09:01) takes off with a driving bass, groove along drums, organ, a bit of gothic trippy fast paced Richard Burmer infused greatness. Yes, I did just get transported back in time, and I did not mind one bit. As usual, I have to thank Martin Archer and company, of Discus Music, for the superior packaging of the physical CD. They still come with the plastic inner sleeve to protect the disc, and this is with a 6 panel full color glossy digipak, totally classy and well thought out. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
©Reviewed by Lee Henderson 2 - 16 - 2021