Orchestra Of The Upper Atmosphere: Theta Six

Sheffield octet recalls the more experimental elements of late 60s jazz-rock, mixing riffs with electronic effects and free improvisation


According to the press release this represents an amalgamation of bass driven and free-improvised sessions with arranged horns and voice additions, which is a pretty accurate description. Time signatures interlink with freer sections and electronic loops, incorporating strands of influences, and at times it’s almost a paean to the more interesting examples of experimentation in jazz-rock of the late 60s.

The opener, Forced Orbit, quickly gets into these areas, with a straightforward drum/bass rhythm and closely harmonic horn arrangements, but soon creeping electronica is injected – small noises alternate between sonar echo soundings and sonic clutter; a blend of instruments and sound like a radio dial trying to find available stations from random signals coming through.

The jazz-rock approach emerges elsewhere, accompanied by a short burst of acoustic piano on Black Paradox, and heavily so on Dagger Boys; mechanics gather on the assembly line, a barrage of sound and detonations, a platform for Martin Archer’s woodwinds.

Horns also feature on Fata Morgana, in tight unison whilst the backdrop enters a minimalist loop.  Similarly we’re in Terry Riley territory on African Lady Pilot, again the horns forthright after the clarion call.

Although Trichromat has a collage of loosely assembled percussive sounds, generally it veers away from total freedom and retains an undulating harmonic core, creating a sense of drama, at times mysteriously disconcerting; a hidden darkness.

Wordless vocals are spread throughout, and the ethereal mood on Alien Spectra contrasts with the more recognisably song-form style of Spinshift, which segues into the riff-based harmonies and rock beat of Marabaraba, with a distinct contribution from Yvonne Magda’s violin: strident bowing, overtones and clipped techniques. The words of the late poet Alan Halsey are featured on the final track but unfortunately these are largely indecipherable.

The combination of styles make this an interesting album, fearlessly experimental but with reassuringly rhythmic episodes.

Forced Orbit; Monochrome; Fata Morgana; Trichromat; Black Paradox; Alien Spectra; Dagger Boys; African Lady Pilot; Spinshift; Marabaraba; Edgelands; Message Parlour – For Alan. (75.13)
Martin Archer (w/w, org, software, v); Steve Dinsdale (d, kyb); Lorin Halsall (b, elec); Yvonna Magda (v, elec); Andy Peake (p, kyb); Walt Shaw (d, pc, v); Jan Todd (v, elec, software, samples, hp, jouhikko, tagelharpa, idiopan); Terry Todd (elb). Sheffield, May 2022-Jan 2023.
Discus 150CD