Omnia Opera, the British band from Kidderminster, are back! The band was formed in 1985 when Rob Lloyd (guitar), Ade Schofield (keyboards), Mike Tongue (drums) and Andy Jones (bass, vocals) joined forces in their love for space rock and psychedelic music. After a few gigs in local pubs they asked Lisa Moriarty and Natalie Jones to join them for a photo shoot for a local paper. Lisa and Natalie eventually joined the band as (backing) vocalists. They called their music 'new age plasma rock'. Musically they were inspired by the space rock bands of the seventies like Gong, Amon Düül II and especially Hawkwind. However, the band played a lot in venues supporting punk bands, so they also adopted some of the energy, the anger and the rawness of punk rock.
Back in the eighties space rock and seventies psychedelic music weren't very popular. There was a small underground scene in the UK around bands like Ozric Tentacles that played at free festivals. These festivals were a gathering of likeminded people and the place to exchange music. There weren't much record companies that even considered spending money on a space rock band. The cassette tape was the medium for the underground scene in those days as they were relatively easy and cheap to copy. Omnia Opera recorded two cassette albums: Beyond The Tenth (1986) and Celebrate For Change (1987) as well as a handful of live tapes. These tapes were more or less recorded live in their rehearsal room since a studio was too expensive. The cassettes were packed in handmade covers.
Between 1986 and 1989 the band did many gigs as a support act for the Cardiacs, Here And Now, Huw Lloyd Langton, The Pink Fairies and Dave Brock's Agents Of Chaos. In 1988 drummer Mike Tongue left the band and was replaced by Neil Spragg. A year later the band split up due to shortage of cash and musical disagreements. However, Lloyd, Schofield, Moriarty and Jones recorded the tape Surfing The Zuvuya (1990), which was released under the name of Omniasphere. The music on this cassette was more dominated by keyboards.
Omnia Opera would probably have become a vague memory from long lost days for a small group of people if it weren't for Richard Allen. He was involved in the Freak Beat magazine, which had its roots in the free festival scene. He founded Delerium Records in 1991. Being a fan of Omnia Opera he was determined to release an album, so he persuaded them to rejoin. In 1992 the band went into the studio to record their first eponymous album. The main portion consists of songs that came from their first two cassettes, but this time properly recorded. Also some new material was recorded.
The album was released in June 1993. It received good critics and to date it belongs to the better albums released on Delerium. 'We are Omnia Opera and this is... Space Bastard.' With these words the album opens before the music starts. The band didn't fear the use of electronics and samples. Following the album, Omnia Opera played some gigs and shortly after started recording a second album, which was a much longer and more painful process. It took them several years and it was close to being never completed. Eventually Red Shift was released in 1997, but after the album had been completed and before it was released, the band split again. Musically Red Shift continues the trip that started on the first record. It contains some excellent tracks like Annihilation and Regeneration. In 2006 Hawkwind contacted the former band members to play on Hawkfest, the annual festival organized by Hawkwind. And so the trio Rob Lloyd, Andy Jones and Neil Spragg revived the band once more. Ade Schofield was too busy with his new project Helices Fold and also Lisa Moriarty and Natalie Jones didn't rejoin. A new keyboard player as well as a backing vocalist was recruited and in 2011 they released, Nothing Is Ordinary, the long awaited third album.
Meanwhile the record label Esoteric Recordings retrieved the copyrights of the Delerium catalogue, excluding the Porcupine Tree releases. So, now the first two Omnia Opera albums are re-released together as a remastered, but unchanged double album, that is, without any bonus tracks. This release is completed by a booklet containing the original artwork, a short story of the band and some photographs. The original albums have become rare and therefore it's a good thing that the music is available again. This album is especially recommended to Hawkwind devotees, but to fans from the early Porcupine Tree releases as well.
**** Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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