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Product Format: 2CDR               ** Regular Stock Item **

Price: £8.33 (exc) £9.99 (inc)


Only release by a long established Synth band from Dundee in Scotland, working in the “Berlin School” style in a similar way to RMI and RED SHIFT!

Long before RMI and RED SHIFT hit the UK synth scene in a big way, a band called ALTRES existed in the underground – and in Dundee of all places! Although this band have been creating music ideally suited to that audience, and apart from some 80’s private cassette releases, this is the first time that they have made their music available to the public, and when you hear the amazing quality of some of the tracks on offer in this excellent double disc set, you just have to ask yourself, why?
Undoubtedly heavily influenced by early to mid-period TANGERINE DREAM, they do have a sound of their own which has developed somewhat over the years. The early tracks are very much of their time and carry that magical fresh element that only the 80’s analogue synth sounds can bring to electronic music.
Personal outstanding tracks on the set are: ‘Snakebridge’ from Disc 1 – A rip-snorting synth anthem that delivers red-hot synth melodies all over the place over a backdrop of sequencers and electro drum machines – a real ‘Logos’ period TD style track from 1985 that EM fans will love to bits. Then on Disc 2 it’s track 2: ‘Magiscule Beach’ – this time it’s a gentle, dreamy cut that was recorded for a Yes fans compilation CD of all things, and then the track that precedes it is excellent too, but it’s a more traditional sequencer based piece for the “Berlin” scholars among you - but let’s take an in depth look at the whole set….

First, a quick history of ALTRES - Formed in the early 80’s, they were originally a six-piece line-up of synth / sequencer players and guitarists, playing improvised and composed tracks ‘live’ and in studio.
Together the performed at ‘UK Electronica 1985’ to great acclaim. After that, one guy left to go solo and played one of just a handful of ‘live’ concerts at ‘UK Electronica 1986’ backed by some members of ALTRES. Sadly, some time later, he passed away, and another member of the band completely disappeared not long after. The band split!
Fast-forward 15 years or so, and the remaining band members, not having spoken or played together since those days in the 80’s, get together again - A few weeks later, and purely by accident, Brian Hutton (guitarist) meets long-time ‘EM’ stalwart Andy Garibaldi just before the band are about to do their first gig in 20 years – and since then the quartet have played sporadic but incredible gigs at venues as normal as Dundee's famous Doghouse venue, and as wild as Dundee's Space Observatory and, most recently, the Dundee “Food & Flower Festival". 2007 introduced a new recruit in Dundee's leading percussionist Cath Costello. Soon, very soon, a new six-piece band will rise once more - for now, you have this amazing double album of archive material to enjoy…

Disc 1 features forty-eight minutes of music recorded by the original sextet between 1983 and 1986 - all of it on CD for the first time! Opening with the classic "Berlin School" sequencer driven sound that forms the intro to the thirteen-minute: ‘Golden Country’, as layers, melodies and textures from the rest of the band are added to give a really deep, full-sounding panoramic view of a track that in many ways is pure '74-'75-era TANGERINE DREAM, but with even more going on in the mix. However, it’s the way that the track's sequencers take centre stage that makes this track so strong, since the rhythms become a vibrant part of the overall magic of the piece, while the melodies weave in and out of the mix to well executed extent, the whole thing as much ‘UK Electronica’ as Germanic, or as much Mark Shreeve as Edgar Froese.
The near seven-minute: ‘Sometimes Elsewhere’ enters on a shimmering soundscape of guitar textures and space synth sounds, but it’s good solid stuff and in no way twee. Making cosmic music sound strong and vibrant, the keyboards slowly cascade up and down, and as the layers weave in and around one another, the piece becomes a seething space exploration of gorgeousness that, in general, has strong echoes of the '73-’74 German ‘Kosmische Musik’ scene. With hints of the COSMIC JOKERS along the way, the overall construction remains unique to ALTRES' improvisatory, yet flowing style.
‘Ancestral Calls-Part 2’ is a four-minute track that features a vast backdrop of string synths, as throbbing electronic bass and layers of space synthesizer sounds are sporadically placed on top, the “melodic” balanced by the “far-out”, as the guitar textures cut a path through the soundscapes, then vanish, leaving the soaring spread of space sounds and sonic swoops to travel to the far reaches of the universe.
‘Snakebridge’ is the 4th track in, and this has become the ALTRES equivalent of Mark Shreeve's: ‘Assassin’, a track that they still perform ‘live’ to this day, and one which always goes down a storm with everyone that hears it. This early version finds all six of them really powering through the track as its sequencer and drum machine rhythms drive infectiously forward, while soaring synth melodies played on top really let rip. The background and any gaps are filled by the rest of the band with an assortment of layers and melodies from treated and synth-sounding lead guitars to swooping keyboards - almost a kind of space-rock Shreeve, only genuinely sounding like there are six players creating this huge expanse of amazing 80's UK synth music! The track goes through all manner of moods and shades, from high-flying skyward vastness to sequencer-driven darkness and all points in between - truly an incredible twelve minutes of absolutely timeless electronic music performance that no-one is going to forget in a hurry.
The one minute of seething, rising, dramatic electronics that is: ‘Wreck’ cuts abruptly to give us the bass sequencer throb that is the intro to the seven minute: ‘Forbidden Zone’, where percussive splashes are added and a space synth motif wells up from the background as a sea of Dyson-esque melodies slowly waft across the surface. String synths are added as the layers become ever thicker and stronger, the track now slowly driving along on a bed of cyclical sequences and soaring synth lines, all very much in atmospheric mode, but full of strength at the same time, as everything builds and patterns come and go from the keyboards and effects-laden guitars. Totally sublime!
CD1 ends with five minutes of: ‘Icefield’, a solid lurching piece driven by electro-percussive rhythms and sequencer backdrops, as spiralling synth melodies are piled on top and drift effortlessly across the surface, with a string synth central core and multi-textured webs of sound inhabiting places throughout the track to provide such a strong depth of electronic sound. Overall, a total of forty-eight minutes of music that sounds every bit as good now as it did back then, and that's something very rare and very precious in these days of over-filled synth music albums.

Disc 2 flies twenty years forward in time to provide over fifty minutes of tracks recorded between 2003 and 2006 by the reformed ALTRES quartet. Opening with studio version of stage favourite: ‘Earworm’, the track opens with this mighty string synth sound that almost emulates GENESIS' intro to ‘Watcher Of The Skies’ in its effect, if not its actual sound. This piece evolves into a flowing set of synth melodies that are driven by bottom-of-the-mix sequencers and added to by extra emotive synth layers. As the sequencer rhythms rise to the foreground, the melodies strengthen and become more dramatic, while electro-percussive splashes add to the depth and bite of the piece. All of a sudden, this spiralling melody emanates form Hutton's guitar as a synth styled sound, and the effect is wondrous. The whole feel of the track evokes an emotional response that is heart warming and adrenaline rousing, as the whole thing flows forward and builds to perfection - A stunning intro!
Then follows nearly nine minutes of: ‘Brainflame’, starting with twisting waves of cosmic guitar, and then this massive, classic sounding "Berlin-esque" sequence rhythm rises from the depths, as more sequencers are overlaid, and the guitar changes to a Manuel Gottsching-styled melody line. Alongside this, a series of synth melodies start to emerge as the whole thing builds to a crescendo and drives forward on a sea of strength, as the rhythms, melodies and layers all combine to breathtaking effect, always changing and conveying the eye-opening emotional response that it deserves.
The ten and a half minute: ‘Magiscule Beach’ opens with tectonic layers of synths and guitars shifting over one another, as an upper register synth melody brings in a sense of calm and serenity that is the opposite of the drama of the shifting cosmic layers of the opening section. A deep bass rhythm signals the end of the layered atmospherics, as the piece opens up into a shining light of synth melodies over a backdrop of slowly flowing rhythms and multi-layered synth/textural guitar, then a simple but amazingly effective melody line rises over it all to provide a gorgeous central focus point. Gradually, the track evolves once more, changing shape into this montage of slowly insistent synth rhythms, gliding synth melodies and beautifully understated guitar, all of which takes your heart and soul to the reaches of the universe to extra special effect. Again, never standing still, the multitudinous layers and depths weave their magic on a piece that possesses a charm and strength that is totally spellbinding and utterly captivating.
After this we get just over two minutes of the gorgeously tranquil and eerily melodic: ‘Dusktreader’, a track where a gentle acoustic guitar tune and three dimensional Richard Vimal style melodies complement each other in a blissfully simple, yet very effective manner.
The seven and a half minute: ‘Black Point’ is a mix of cosmic darkness, seething space synths and soaring electronic backdrops. Melody and rhythm are hinted at, but never actually fully formed, as the gorgeously cosmic Germanic pool of sound and textures slowly build into this fantastic sound that becomes something like a parallel-universe answer to the COSMIC JOKERS.
Again at over seven-minutes, ‘(Shadow Of) A Broken Mirror’ returns us back into drama, this time with one supercharged track that revolves around solid, driving keyboard rhythms, pulsing sequencers and electro-percussives, as fierce melodies come from the synthesizers and guitars, all suitably treated so that it's often hard to tell which is which. Above this, yet another sublime melody line raises its wondrous head as the piece provides echoes of ‘live’ WAVESTAR-styled layers, only here there is so much going on in the mix, it will take you several plays just to take it all in. This huge-sounding mass of strong, multi-layered electronics and guitars moves along unstoppably, its strength sitting so easily alongside its beauty, with the melodies and layers that rise from the mix proving to be completely hypnotic as it all builds and builds to adrenaline-rising degree, leaving you almost drained by the time you've finished listening to the remarkable musical expanse of ever shifting layers, textures, rhythms and melodies.
CD2 ends with the seven-minute: ‘Throb’, a flowing, melodic track with an understated rhythm and synths that bend and twist through a series of improvised melodies, moving high and low over a steady flow of electronic rhythms. Strings and organ sounds are added as the track progresses and builds towards the conclusion. It’s all very 70’s in feel, but then that’s the way we like it, isn’t it?

So there you have it, taken as a whole, over one hundred minutes of timeless, amazing, quality electronic music that is absolutely essential listening for any fan of UK synth music and most fans of European sounding synth music in general. Amazingly, the best is still to come!!


Disc 1 (1883-1986):
01. Golden Country (13:00)
02. Sometimes Elsewhere (6:44)
03. Ancestral Calls-Part 2 (4:00)
04. Snakebridge (11:42)
05. Wreck (1:10)
06. Forbidden Zone (7:02)
07. Icefield (5:06)
TPT – 47:53

Disc 2 (2003-2006):
01. Earworm (7:27)
02. Brainflame (8:37)
03. Magiscule Beach (10:38)
04. Dusktreader (2:26)
05. Black Point (7:34)
06. {Shadow Of A} Broken Mirror (7:14)
07. Throb (7:21)
TPT – 51:22