Two self-contained recordings that have a family link but quite independent personalities.
OUA Elements – Germination
Jan Todd: Laptop electronics, software instruments and samples, original found sounds, celtic harp, cross strung harp, jouhikko, alto tagelharp, idiopan; Lorin Halsall: Acoustic and electric double basses, electronics; Walt Shaw: Drums and percussion.
Recorded 8th May 2022 by Martin Archer
Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere – Theta Six
Martin Archer: woodwind, organ, software instruments, voice; Steve Dinsdale: drums, keyboards; Lorin Halsall: acoustic and electric double basses, electronics; Yvonna Magda: violin, electronics; Andy Peake: piano, keyboards; Walt Shaw: drums, percussion, voice; Jan Todd: vocals, voices, laptop electronics, software instruments and samples, original found sounds, celtic harp, cross strung harp, jouhikko, alto tagelharpa, idiopan; Terry Todd: bass guitar.
Recorded May 2022 – January 2023 by Robin Downe (Yellow Arch), Martin Archer (Discus Music Studio) and Jan Todd (FrogPond).
Formed in 2010, this is the sixth instalment of their Theta series, the Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere and they continue to delight with their unique brand of spacey-dub-jazz. This is a great contribution to their library and one that has been on repeat from me.
On this set, the recording sessions occurred on two days. On the first day, the tracks were led by Halsall’s bass lines with the ensemble improvising around the rhythm. The album opens with the near 13 minute ‘Forced Orbit’. Here, the bass feels around the echoey drums and wash of electronica before settling into a line that has more than a hint of Jah Wobble or Bill Laswell in its pulse, lyricism, and spaciness.
Just like the best reggae dub records, the bass and drums keep a hypnotic rhythm while the sounds that are layered on top of this acquire their own logic. What distinguishes this recording from other artists, though, is the fluidity with which the improvisations develop and shift.
Over the opening bass lines, the saxophone is layered to give a patina of effects that drift in and out of the sound. On the second day, Todd, Halsall and Shaw recorded an 80 minute improvisation (which is released as ‘Germination’). Through a process of remixing that radically deconstructs and reassembles the two recording sessions, Theta Six was created.
It has been an interesting experience to listen to the two recordings. But quite difficult to fully define which parts have come from the trio session and which from the ensemble. Ultimately, this is a good thing because Discus have given us two self-contained recordings that have a family link but quite independent personalities.
Reviewed by Chris Baber