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Upperground Orchestra

Rabih Beaini (analog sytnhs)
Piero Bittolo Bon 
Alvise Seggi (el. bass)
Tommaso Cappellato (drums) 



Genre: Jazz - Spiritual / Cosmic & Soul Jazz

1. Born Again
2. Memory Shark
3. Distorted Spread
4. Into The Dust
5. We Travel The Lands Of Stars And Dust
6. Kamanja 


Venetian imprint Morphine are preparing a new series of live releases with an album from Upperground Orchestra, the cosmic jazz outfit spearheaded by Rabih Beaini aka Morphosis.

From his Venice base, the Lebanese producer has developed into one of the most consistently interesting artists working within the electronic spectrum, gracing labels such as Delsin, M>O>S Recordings and Dekmantel with some fine material in the past 18 months; “Impulse”, his contribution to the latter’s Anniversary Series, was a particularly well executed exercise in jittering techno paranoia, while 2011′s What Have We Learned LP was one of the year’s finest techno long players.

The Upperground Orchestra collective, established back in 2002, is perhaps Beaini’s most intriguing project. Set up alongside Alvise Seggi and Max Bustreo, the Orchestra is a fluid collective of self titled “formidable Jazz nomads” whose line-up changes from session to session, and to date have only released one 12″,  the Solaris Emerit EP which dropped on Morphine back in 2008. The forthcoming six track album entitled The Eupen Takes follows on from the release of an excellent 12″ by Morphine which saw Donato Dozzy and Hieroglyphic Being rework material from the label’s back catalogue with compelling results.



Upperground Orchestra, an improvisational collective loosely centered around Rabih Beaini (AKA Morphosis), will release its first album in July, entitled The Eupen Takes.

The six-track release shows Upperground Orchestra doing what they do best: playing a chaotic blend of jazzy, krauty and electronic sounds, free of any rehearsed plan or guideline. The group first appeared on record back in 2008 with Solaris Eremit, an EP on Beaini's Morphine Records, but had been playing shows around Venice even before then. Everything they do is always 100% improvisitional, which makes sense given their origins: according to Beaini, they were originally two unrelated groups that a promoter accidentally double-booked, which led to the spontaneous formation of Upperground Orchestra. 

The Eupen Takes documents the second half of a set at the Eupen Muzik Marathon in Belgium last June. Earlier this week, we caught up Beaini and the group's drummer, Tommaso Cappellato, to talk more about the roots of the album and the band itself:

How would you describe the overall method or philosophy behind the group? 

Rabih Beaini: It was born as an open stage or jam reunion band. It's like an open project for musicians. Anybody from the crowd could go on stage and play with us. And it worked like this for about a year or so and then for many other reasons it became a real band after that. But still we never do rehearsals or studio sessions.

Tommaso Cappellato: Now that I think about it, Rabih is a little bit like Miles Davis. Miles had the amazing ability of gathering key musicians and the way he combined them into the same group gave life to that incredible music that we all love. In that sense Upperground Orchestra works the same way. There is no method really, it's the chemistry between the different experiences, backgrounds and personalities of the single musicians in the band that produces a certain kind of magic. We start from scratch and finish the same way. Sometimes I listen to a recorded live session and I say to myself that even if we rehearsed a hundred years we wouldn't be able to come up with that kind of togetherness.

How is this different from your other projects?

RB: By nature I am not a programmer. I follow my impulses, my feelings, even on the machines, and that's mainly what I'm doing as Upperground Orchestra and as Morphosis. It's exactly the same thing to be honest.

TC: I work with countless different projects. More recently I tend to have something already organized before going on stage, although I spent a long period in New York showing up at restaurant gigs, where people didn't want to be bothered by cacophony, playing completely improvised music and making it sound pretty. It was hard to have fresh ideas all the time but after a while I got used to it. Right now I run a 14-piece orchestra playing my original compositions and other smaller projects with other people's music. I like doing both things and definitely one helps the other.

Can you describe the event where the new album was recorded?

RB: The concert was in Belgium, one year ago, in a city called Eupen in the German district of Belgium. And it was a big festival called Music Marathon, and Meakusma, the label and organization from Eupen, they had a stage and they hosted us and there was also Harmonious Thelonious, Shackleton and other artists.

TC: If you imagine a typical eclectic, inspiring electronic music festival with a super specialized audience you totally got the wrong idea. It was more like a mom-&-pop-with-kids-and-strollers kind of fair full of stages, food and beer stands. There were many different kind of genres being played. Before and after our gig we kept going around trying to hear other music but everywhere we went every band was sound checking, so we called it the "Soundcheck Music Fest." We're still laughing about that, it was so surreal.

When our turn to play came at Meakusma Stage, by far the most interesting place in the whole festival, after a difficult three-hour sound check, it started raining and most of the people seemed to not get what we were going for. Still I can remember how inspired the band was despite all the misfortune. When I first got to hear the recordings I was even more impressed, and that's the feeling I always get with this band.

RB: I remember the sound man on our stage, annoyed by the amount of synths he had to plug in for me, he said, "PLEASE bring a laptop next time!" After the concert he told me: "Oh... if I ever see you with a laptop I'm gonna destroy it, this is how you should play, only like this." It was really a special day, this is why I've decided to document it. It's not really an album, it's more of a travel document.

01. Born Again
02. Memory Shark
03. Distorted Spread
04. Into The Dust
05. We Travel The Lands Of Stars And Dust
06. Kamanja

Morphine Records will release The Eupen Takes in July 2012.



Upperground Orchestra prepara The Eupen Takes
Publicado el 11.06.2012

Upperground Orchestra, un colectivo improvisacional centrado entorno a la figura de Rabih Beaini aka Morphosis (en la foto) publicará su primer disco este julio con el título The Eupen Takes. Los seis temas nos muestran a la Upperground Orchestra haciendo lo que mejor sabe hacer: tocar una mezcla caótica de jazz, kraut y electrónica, libres de todo ensayo o plan. La primera aparición de este grupo en disco data del 2008 con el Solaris Eremit, un EP que saldría vía Morphine Records. Todo lo que hacen es 100% improvisación, lo que tiene sentido si hacemos caso de los orígenes del colectivo: de acuerdo con lo declarado por Beaini, originalmente eran dos grupos sin relación que un promotor contrato para el mismo evento. Esto produjo la formación espontánea de Upperground Orchestra. The Eupen Takes documentará la segunda mitad del directo del colectivo en la maratónEupen Muzik que se celebró en Bélgica el pasado mes de junio.

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Anyone who’s been seriously following exciting new techno developments over the past decade must have stumbled upon Rabih Beaini’s name at one point or another. An inquisitive musician, the Lebanese producer has been traveling a singular, esoteric journey into the depths of circuits and patch cords, showing an intriguingly strong familiarity with a broad spectrum of jazz history and proto-dance music repertoire as Ra.H and Morphosis. While debated about mostly in electronic dance music terms, it’s been clear that during his formative period in Venice, he was also diligently working out a way to incorporate the physicality of his modular gear in live improv practices. Reaching as far back as 2002, his lead position in the Upperground Orchestra heavily influenced various incarnations of the collective, and last year’s performance at Eupen Muzik Marathon in Belgium proves to be the most palpable document of the band’s sound. The Eupen Takes LP, released on Morphine Records’ live series this autumn, consists of those live recordings, split into six different tracks.


Side A opens with “Born Again,” an introduction to Upperground Orchestra: with Beaini’s series of sustained cosmic squeaks and Tommaso Cappellato’s basic rhythmic grid, the band quickly establishes a sluggish primal unity. Piero Bittolo Bon plays the flute at first, precariously building the background to an inevitable, tempo-shifting collapse, catalyzed by Alvise Seggi’s riotous bass playing. “Memory Shark,” firmly rooted in a quasi-disco backbone, brings exhilarating analog whooshes and is enlivened by lightning-fast psychedelic alto sax excursions, creating a genuine surprise and excitement. The band’s improvisations flow and grow in what seems an organic rather than calculating way, revealing a collective playing that deals not in any macro narrative, but clusters of micro-events. This fact becomes most evident in “Distorted Spread,” which is basically a cosmic rock jam founded on Cappellato and Seggi’s groovy frame, allowing Beaini and Bittolo Bon to celebrate the simultaneous co-existence of their innumerable musical options, moving among them with dazzling fluency.


Side B generally shows more order in handling of their sound, with more seamless joints and smooth, logical shifts in momentum. Although “Into The Dust” gives an innocent impression of a short sketch, it’s actually a mark of collective genesis: the Lebanese producer changes analog envelopes, accents and filters, oscillating through different sonorities to achieve specific gestural effects, which function as triggers for a prevailing theme for others — in this case Seggi. The soundscape on the LP mostly works as proof of primacy of sound over melody, but in “We Travel The Lands Of Starts And Dust,” the Orchestra offers a skillful interplay between Beaini’s serrated analog fluttering and ominous purrs, and Seggi’s sombre alternating slurs of bass, culminating into a deeply hypnotic kosmische trip. The volubility of the players and their skill at restless interweaving really seals the deal on the final cut, “Kamanja,” where we witness a balanced, synchronized melting pot of decentered tribal drumming, psychotic alto sax cries, sustained bleeps and bass interventions, which — in the last minute — burst into a killer riff.


The music on this LP often evolves according to its own logic, both improvisatory and hallucinatory, and its 40 or so minutes include softness and abrasiveness, restraint and attack, pulse and drift. It requires an open-minded listener attuned to the frequencies of this esoteric band, which might be hard to pinpoint. But just as there are various ways to make music, there are also various ways of listening. You can choose to listen to this record in one of two ways: remain alert to the myriad complexities of each moment, or surrender to the journey and let yourself be carried along. I chose the first and ended up in the latter.