Alto Stratus = the highest clouds in the sky, or the 25 year old experimental duo of Alan Freeman and Steve Freeman

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 above 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.

left: Alan Freeman, right: Steve Freeman

The cassette release "TACHYON" was one the most fanciful and conceptual recordings from the early 80's, 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!

Alto Stratus in their own private jungle!

"CATHARSIS" is the first release from Alto Stratus in over a decade, but is not so much a reformation - more a continuation - working on ideas hinted at on older releases and with our other 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. And now, sporadically, Alto Stratus goes on, with 4 further releases to date, each a unique step along our own musical avenue!

 

Other information...
Auricle Archive Rarities includes a complete catalogue of all original Alto Stratus cassette releases (inc. Adhara, Electric Junk, Region 5 and Vrije) in its bonus CD-Rom sector.

A chronological list of Auricle cassettes can be found on this web-site!

Alto Stratus live recordings feature on the following Endgame discs...
Live Vol. I
(AMEGL1) CDR Alto Stratus In Tension 7'30"
Live Vol. IV
(AMEGL4) CDR Alto Stratus Isn't One? 11'44"
Live Vol. VII
(AMEGL7) CDR Alto Stratus Live Acoustic Surgery 9'00"