You know the old adage, "Those who can't do, criticize"? Taken
to its logical extreme, this implies that there is a failed
band in the past of every music critic schlocking their opinions
on the web.
I was, for a brief year or so, in an Orb cover band. Well,
not really "band" per se -- we were two guys with a Gravis Ultra
Sound on a P2 (state of the art in 1994), a well-worn copy of
U.F.Orb, a vision, and (quite honestly) a lot
more technical computer knowledge than musical knowledge. And
we didn't really "cover" The Orb -- we couldn't figure their
songs out. But somewhere in my apartment there is a tape with
about 5 five or six songs based loosely on the deep dub of The
Orb. We never really got anywhere, and it is frustration at
this that eventually led me down the path of Miniondom.
So there you go -- True Confessions of A Minion: when i was
25 i wanted to be DR LX Patterson. It's true, i can admit it
now. I could not figure out how he did that "magic" with the
turntables and the samples and whatnot, but there you go.
Which, quite frankly, means that i am rather pumped to find
that The Orb has a new album out, their first of new material
since 1997. Yay!
And, quite honestly, i like it better than 1997's outing, Orblivion.
Not to say that Orblivion is worse than Cydonia,
but rather to imply that The Orb have shifted their focus somewhat.
It seems to me that there has always been two genres warring
in the heart of Patterson and co. On the one hand, they are
British electronica artists whose music exists within the realm
of the British dance music scene. Basically, this means that
The Orb is expected to make Disco music. Like Gloria Gaynor,
only a little less cheesey. Hey, it's what pays the bills for
London DJ's. Repetitive driving beats, cheese laden female (always
female, why is that?) vocal samples, etc.
On the other hand The Orb have always made a certain amount
of beautiful, stunning audio collages with deep throbbing bass.
A slight variance on the Jamaican art form of "dub". Lots of
echo, beats that meander more than drive, bass riffs that grab
your sternum and slap it around, silly little keyboard riffs.
These two sides have warred within The Orb. Their first hit,
Little Fluffy Clouds, was dance. Their 40 minute epic
Blue Room was dub. Orblivion was more dance
than dub. Cydonia is more dub than dance.
Oh sure, tracks like Once More and A Mile Long Lump
Of Lard have the feel of the dancefloor, but tracks like
Hamlet Of Kings and the long wandering opus Terminus
will have you sitting on the floor thinking of The Jah.
I guess it depends what your focus is. As i have mentioned
before, i am too white and
American to dance. So i like the deep listening sounds of The
Orb in dub.
This album has much to lend itself to the sort of deep listening
that i love The Orb for. There are great little vocal samples
strewn about, strange sounds occurring way in the back of the
headphones, beats that make your head bop along. I really like
In particular i have to mention Terminus, a song which
plumbs the depths of space in a way that reminds me (oh so fondly)
of early Orb work on The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld:
really spaced out wandering. Relaxing. Tranquil. Meditative.
And it ends with the perfect vocal sample: some sort of countdown,
and a voice expressing regret that the countdown has reached
its end. That's how i feel every time -- regret that the album
has ended. Sure, i can start it again, but will my Terminus-trance-induced
wanderings ever take me back to the exact same place? Sigh....
I have even grown to apreciate the dance tracks on the album.
They are not pure rhythm a la, drum n bass, which i dislike.
They are not as cheesey as, say, Basement Jaxx. It's got good
little rhythms, but there is still more to the songs. Added
depth if you will, that flows over from the dub tracks perhaps.
Now, i am not a part of the "dance scene". I don't go to raves,
or clubs. So i dunno if this type of stuff will fly with the
ravekids these days. Is this what they want? If drum n bass
is the genre of the day, is there a place for the dub of The
Orb? If you are a ravekid, should you pick this up?
Like i said, i don't dance, i just sit around and listen to
lots of music. I say that this is a quality album full of great
listening. Can you dance to it though? I dunno, you are asking
the wrong guy! If, however, like me you like to sit and lose
yourself in contemplation of the sounds of an album, this is
perfect. It is, in fact, one of the best "space rock" albums
to come out in the past few years.
Only it's not rock. At all. Wierd that.