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ORCHESTRA OF THE UPPER ATMOSPHERE: O2

The genre-defying UK outfit whip up a storm.

Martin Archer’s UK ensemble have a tune called The Breaking Of The Bonds & The Rearrangement Of The Atoms, and this nicely sums up their distinctive sound.

The juxtapositions on their new double-disc set make for a startlingly fresh experience. It opens with an echo-saturated maelstrom of strings, percussion and squalling electronics that wouldn’t sound out of place in a 70s Italian slasher flick. From the chaos, the album stretches into an irresistible suite encompassing wiry retro synth, snagging beats, thudding caustic funk, murmuring chorales and dreamy intervals. Experimental and yet accessible and melodic, the core octet’s soaring themes are added to by a string quartet and a hugely dramatic 20-piece choir. It could all be an indulgent clutter, but fastidious, disciplined arrangements ensure that an aura of saturnalian extravagance is maintained well throughout. Connections to psychedelic Krautrock and Terry Riley trippiness stoke the smoky exoticism pervading an album of world-class music. This Orchestra’s raggedly eclectic brilliance deserves a wider hearing.

Sid Smith
Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.