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ALTO STRATUS / HISTORY

Alan Freeman, Steve Freeman
experimental electronics, guitars & other instruments


The duo of Alan and Steve Freeman (owners of Ultima Thule, etc.), we spent much of our spare time during the early 80's experimenting with synthesizers, sound collage, etc., and during that period we recorded some 30 odd cassettes as Alto Stratus (and under other guises: as Vrije, Q.S.O., Electric Junk), also as soloists, and the trio with sound artist Nigel Harris in ZBB.

The "Auricle Music Archive" releases amount to a history of early Alto Stratus, tracing the roots from Industrial and avant-garde explorations to a more cohesively musical style. For instance: The "Region 5" CD collates the choice material from Alto Stratus cassette releases originally issued under the guise of Region 5. Why Region 5? Well, the initial inspiration came from the Stockhausen opus "Hymnen" of which "Region 4" was the most inspiring of all. In mixing and layering various forms of music at different speeds we also found a new way of creating music, a technique nowadays often labelled "plunderphonics". The sources were records from our own collections, sound effects and library records, and a little instrumental work of our own. Region 5, although Alto Stratus incognito, became accepted as another mysterious project on our roster, and it seems that no one guessed for years. Curiously, we sold more in Italy than anywhere else. Until recently, no one guessed or commented on what any of the source music was, that was until Jim Tetlow purchased the "Dietro il Silenzio" cassette and pointed out quite rightly that the track "Death Zone" liberally plundered a certain Brian Eno track. When compiling this CD release I deliberately avoided any tracks that involved use of anything obvious. This "plunderphonic" technique is in wide use today, although I don't think many others have used it so subtly as we did. The "Adhara" release documents the three Adhara cassettes. The concept behind Adhara was to tell a science fiction story in music. We were encouraged to do this by friends who would say "this would make a great film soundtrack", and naturally with our passion for space movies we attempted to do a grand trilogy. Core influences in this music included the soundtrack work of John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream, although the chief factor was to be able to tell the story with sound.

The lost album "Alchemy" is some of the earliest cohesive Alto Stratus, and the roots of an electronic/experimental music that draws influences from European rock, the avant-garde, industrial and synth musics. Most Alto Stratus releases feature unique use of analogue synthesizers, echo guitars, loops, voices and much tape collage. "Tension!" is an ode to the psychedelic era, partly the free-form space-rock of Guru Guru and early Heldon, meeting Kluster styled use of echoes and loops. "Svet Ozveny" contains notable Stockhausen, Can, early Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream influences. "The Ritual" (recorded some time later) has been acclaimed by many as our greatest triumph, being a more carefully crafted blend of melodic electronics and experimentation, featuring sound sampling, and a wide range of synthesizers and keyboards. "Tachyon" was one the most fanciful and conceptual recordings from the early 80s, an era of intensive home studio work, experimentation, and honing skills as electronic artists. Our "studio" consisted of 3 cassette decks, a 6 channel keyboard mixer, and a few effects. Back in 1984, the "Tachyon" was thought to be "a theoretical particle, capable of travelling faster than the speed of light", whereas today scientists claim to have proved its existence. Such an idea amounted to a fascinating concept for an album. "Tachyon" is intriguing for us today, with references and influences of: Conrad Schnitzler, Teddy Lasry, Cluster, Dome, Heldon, The Residents, Stockhausen, Throbbing Gristle, etc. Being non-musicians, the way we put all this together is more from the viewpoint of sound-artists, relying more on colour and texture than normal melodic composition, yet it's surprisingly melodic! The resulting potpourri of all this is incredibly diverse, and still surprisingly fresh 15 years on. Digitally transferred by Colin Potter, with an obscure bonus track, this is some of the finest Alto Stratus, with infinitely superior sound and clarity. Now, on CD, it should last forever!

"Catharsis" was the first release from Alto Stratus in over a decade, but was not so much a reformation - more a continuation - working on ideas hinted at on older releases and the current project Endgame. It's partly the result of works in the Newt Hounds project, and an attempt to recapture the feel of Biomechanoid. The side-long "Necronomicon Suite" involves a 45 minute improvisation that amasses a wide range of styles (Dadaism and collage, through to cosmic synths and psychedelic rock) and is full of surprises, as are the three tracks that cover the second side. 90 minutes of unique Alto Stratus invention. Since then, sporadically, Alto Stratus has continued on, with 8 further releases to date, each a unique step along our own musical avenue! You can read more about those on the release pages. Alto Stratus also took the bold step of playing live too, and have featured at a variety of events, most prestigiously at the Church Of Sound in Nottingham as documented on the release "Altered States".

Discography...

as Vrije
DUIN THA' WHITEHOUSE - MC Musiques Nouvelles MN 004 (1981)
AZAZEL EBLIS - MC Musiques Nouvelles MN 006 (1982), DL Syzygy ZC 60.003 RN (2014)
THIRD - 2MC Syzygy ZC 120.008 (1983)
4 - MC Syzygy ZC 60.009 (1983), CDR Dark Star DSC 60.009 CDR (2010)
TRANSMISSION - MC Syzygy ZC 60.010 (1983)
SIX, RETROSPECTION I - MC Syzygy ZC 90.011 (1983) c90, Dark Star DS205 (1984) c60
CONTAMINATE - MC Syzygy ZC 60.012 (1983), CDR Dark Star DSC 60.012 CDR (2010)
NEW LIFE - MC Pagan PGN 83-1 (1983), CDR Dark Star DSC DS213 CDR (2010) originally credited to Holy Atheist
BLITZKRIEG - MC Syzygy ZC 90.015 (1983)
GRAVAMINA FOR UXORICIDE - MC Syzygy ZC 60.018 (1983), CDR Dark Star DSC 60.018 CDR (2010)
DIABOLIK TREPIDATION - MC Dark Star DS201 (1984), CDR Dark Star DS201 CDR (2010)
TERMINUS, RETROSPECTION 2 - MC Dark Star DS202 (1984)
ALCHEMY - MC Dark Star DSC11 (1985), CDR Auricle AMCDR 002 (2001) THIRD recompiled reissue

as Alto Stratus
URBAN DECAY - MC Dark Star DS101 (1984)
TALES FROM TOMORROW - MC Dark Star DS102 (1984)
EPATANT! - MC Dark Star DS103 (1984)
TRAUMA - MC Dark Star DS104 (1984)
CHAOS - MC Dark Star DSB3 (1984) unreleased
KRONOS - MC Dark Star DSB11 (1984) unreleased
XOLOTL - MC Dark Star DSB24 (1984) unreleased
LOGOS - MC Dark Star DSB12 (1984) unreleased
THOR - MC Dark Star DSB20 (1984) unreleased
SVET OZVENY - 2MC Dark Star DS105/6 (1984) 2xc60, Auricle AMC 001 (1985) c90, CDR Auricle AMCDR 007 (2001)
LIQUID SKY - MC Dark Star DS107 (1984)
TENSION! - MC Dark Star DS108 (1984), CDR Auricle AMCDR 008 (2001)
TACHYON - MC Dark Star DS109 (1984), CD Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 002 (1999)
IBLIS - MC Dark Star DSB9 (1984) unreleased
LIVE - MC Dark Star DS110 (1984)
1984: THE END OF ALL SONGS - MC Dark Star DSC13 (1985)
OLD WOUNDS, VOL. 2 - MC Dark Star DC02 (1985)
THE RITUAL - MC Auricle AMC 035 (1989), CDR Auricle AMCDR 031 (2003)
IT CRAWLED OUT OF THE WOODWORK - MC Auricle AMS 004 (1989) credited as various artists
TASTY MORSELS - MC Auricle AMC 042 (1990)
SUNKEN NUN / BEYOND THE INFINITE - MC demos (1988-1994) unreleased
CATHARSIS - MC Auricle AMC 049 (2001)
PSYCHOSIS - CD Ultimate Transmissions UTCD 011 (2002)
DEVASTATION - CDR Auricle AMCDR 026 (2003)
ACOUSTIC SURGERY (2002) - CDR Auricle AMCDR 078 (2006) originally planned as an LP release
REWIRED - CDR Auricle AMCDR 083 (2006)
TIME DILATION - VCD-R Auricle AMCDV 002 (2007), DVD-R Auricle AMDVD 002 (2007)
TIME DILATION / METAMORPHOSIS - CDR Auricle AMCDR 098 (2007)
LIVE @ BAMBU - CDR Auricle AMCDR 103 (2007)
ALTO STRATUS & FRIENDS: EYE OPENER - CDR Auricle AMCDR 168 (2010)
ASYLUM - THE YOUTUBE REMIXES - DL Auricle AMDL 016 (2012)
ALTO STRATUS / TRIAX - LIVE EQ & SOL 2008 - CDR Auricle AMCDR 191 (2012)
ALTERED STATES - CDR Auricle AMCDR 212 (2015)

Auricle Archive series...
DUIN THA' WHITEHOUSE AND OTHER EARLY WORKS - CDR Auricle AMACDR 002 (2000)
VRIJE 1983 - CDR Auricle AMACDR 003 (2001)
PANTHEON 1984 - CDR Auricle AMACDR 004 (2001)
DARK STAR - CDR Auricle AMACDR 005 (2001)
REGION 5 - CDR Auricle AMACDR 008 (2001)
ELECTRIC JUNK - CDR Auricle AMACDR 009 (2001)
ADHARA - CDR Auricle AMACDR 010 (2001)
IT CRAWLED OUT OF THE WOODWORK - CDR Auricle AMACDR 016 (2008)

plus releases under the guises: Adhara, Biomechanoid, Electric Junk, The Newt Hounds, (Q.S.O.) and Region 5.

Alto Stratus live recordings on Endgame discs...
LIVE VOL. I - CDR Auricle AMEGL1 (2001) track: In Tension
LIVE VOL. IV - CDR Auricle AMEGL4 (2001) track: Isn't One?
LIVE VOL. VII - CDR Auricle AMEGL7 (2002) track: Live Acoustic Surgery

original Alto Stratus tracks on other releases...
ILLUMINATED PLEASURES - MC Dark Star ST 1 (1983), CDR Auricle AMACDR 014 (2007) track: Dawn
A CAGE WENT IN SEARCH OF A BIRD (1985) - CDR Auricle AMSCDR 006 (2002) 2 tracks
SPACE-ROCK & THE 4TH DIMENSION (1989) - CDR Auricle AMSCDR 007 (2002) track: On The Run
INTO THE UNDERWORLD (1990) - CDR Auricle AMSCDR 008 (2002) track: Preflection
AURICLE ARCHIVE - RARITIES - CDR Auricle AMACDR 012 (2002) inc. 9 Alto Stratus tracks
BIJOUTERIE - CDR Auricle AMCDR 024 (2003) track: Inevitable Retension
DRONSZ - CDR Auricle AMCDR 038 (2003) track: Devil Station

 

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