The Upper Strata
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The Upper Strata

Basel, Basel-Stadt, Switzerland | Established. Jan 01, 2012 | SELF

Basel, Basel-Stadt, Switzerland | SELF
Established on Jan, 2012
Duo Electronic Indie





by Marissa Abruzzini.

One thing’s for certain: you won’t get bored listening to The Upper Strata’s latest album, Neon Glitz. On one track, you might find calm Middle Eastern-flavored melodies, and on the next, a rave-worthy, thumping keyboard patch. No two songs have the same sound, yet they’re held together by their underlying darkness.

It’s this brush with gloom that attracts me so strongly to The Upper Strata. They take what could be a standard electronic dance track and chip away at it until they’re left with just the skeleton, layering on top of that a series of goosebump-inducing, shadowy melodies. If you’re a fan of trip-hop or industrial rave music, you’ll dig The Upper Strata’s Neon Glitz. 

Although all of the songs on Neon Glitz sound distinctive, you’ll still notice a pattern as you listen to this record in-full. The first few songs have a clear focus on percussion and unusual key signatures. Imagine Thievery Corporation’s “Lebanese Blonde,” but with a more experimental, deconstructed approach. You’ll hear this most clearly on the first song, “Time.”

I definitely enjoy the first half of Neon Glitz more than the later tracks for this reason. “Time” and tracks like it make beautiful use of dissonant notes and swollen atmospheres. This isn’t an easy style of music to pull off, yet The Upper Strata accomplish it with ease.

Songs like “Beyond” smash Middle Eastern melodies into a classic rave beat, which is equally alluring. I love that The Upper Strata consider not just the individual tracks, but also how these tracks interact with one another as a whole work of art. “Beyond” in particular is short and relatively simple, and it perfectly sets up the next song, “Neon Glitz.” Its ebbing beat serves as a palate cleanser for the audience; it’s a bit like a built-in emcee.

My favorite song on Neon Glitz is the title track. It has this surrealist attitude that’s a little disorienting. Listening to it makes you feel like you’re stuck in a fun house — just when you think you know where the song is taking you, The Upper Strata bend it in an unexpected, slightly twisted way.

As the record plays on, the songs become a little more traditional in structure, and the duo embrace a dreamier, poppier feel. This change of pace doesn’t come out of nowhere, since all of the tracks slowly build up to this moment. Yet when you compare the first track to the last track side-by-side, they sound like they come from two entirely different bands.

This isn’t exactly unusual for The Upper Strata. They’re a chameleon-like duo that change their sound at-will. Even their name reflects this transformative attitude; they’re always cutting the chaff from every project, leaving only the top layers in the final product.

The digital version of Neon Glitz will be released on Bandcamp on May 5, and you can get the vinyl version on July 7. - TourWorthy

"3 Rad New Releases: KONGOS, The Upper Strata, and Papa D and the Union Thugs"

The Upper Strata was a bit of a YabYum sweetheart (see here, here, and here) before they went international. But now, they’re back! Well, they have new music to share with local audiences all the way from their home in Switzerland. Fog, just like the name suggests, is a hazy soundscape of ambient noise that only touches on the border of shoegaze indie. If you’ve kept up with the band over the years, you can hear the slow evolution of sound that brought The Upper Strata into their current form from their early Americana-laced days.

The LP kicks off with the title track, an almost eight minute, montage of slowly shifting sounds. Layering guitars, synths, and “found sounds” to create musical meditations “inspired by fog”, The Upper Strata creates a monumentally chill album, meant to be consumed in its entirety, from start to finish. Fog is the perfect soundtrack for those rare rainy days in the desert or to help you find your way to an evening mellow after a haggard day. The album came out last week so head to Bandcamp to preview/purchase Fog. And make sure you catch The Upper Strata live when they pass through their old stomping grounds on their U.S. tour – with stops in Tempe and Tucson… - Yab Yum


Fog (2019) - LP (digital)

Fog Instrumental (2019) - LP (digital)

Johnny & Reg (2018) - LP (CD)

Neon Glitz (2017) - LP (vinyl, digital)

Cabaret Wartaire (2015) - LP (CD, digital)

Shadow Upon The Snow (2014) - EP (CD, digital)

Phantastic Pigeon-Holes (2013) - LP (CD, digital)

Manifest (released 11/11/11) - EP (CD, digital)

From Restless To Ruin LP (1996)



The Upper Strata is an American/Swiss musical duo based in Basel (Switzerland) with Johnny on guitar and vocals and Reg on bass, synth, backup vocals and sequencer. The band is blending global music influences such as shoegaze, soul, ambient, trip hop and blues. 

Their latest album, Fog (2019), features found sounds from Spain, Switzerland and Norway while being inspired by the fog in the Pacific Northwest. It is a relaxing chillout ambient soundscape. In 2017, the duo released their first vinyl record Neon Glitz. Eight electro indie dance tracks with a hint of soul and trip hop. They keep mixing genres and influences and are constantly shifting focus - an intriguing chameleon-like approach to deconstructing features of a specific genre and mixing it into something new. 

The Upper Strata is Johnny and Reg - a husband and wife duo. Johnny has always been attracted to music from the wrong side of the tracks; from gritty punk to raw blues in some sketchy juke joint or reggae down at the port of Tampa in some illegal club. Reg, who grew up in Switzerland, went to raves in empty industrial warehouses and dragged an old diatonic accordion to the States to feed through effects pedals. The duo melts these experiences together. The influences are varied. “On one track, you might find calm Middle Eastern-flavored melodies, and on the next, a rave-worthy thumping keyboard patch. No two songs have the same sound, yet they’re held together by their underlying darkness,” says Marissa Abruzzini from TourWorthy.

The duo performed extensively in the US (OR, WA, CA, AZ, NM, CO, UT, MT, ID, LA, FL) and a bit in Italy and Switzerland.