Review Summary: The Orb make a great return to the sound and elements that made their debut the classic that it deserves to be.
The Orb are one of the most ground breaking electronica bands still around today, and also one of the original pioneers of their sound. When they released their acclaimed debut people were impressed and drawn to The Orb’s use of chill, laid back beats, spoken word samples, dreamlike synth sounds, dub and reggae undertones, and inventive song structures. In my opinion, The Orb have never fully recaptured the brilliance of that album again, with future albums either being a little too minimal (U.F.Orb
), a little too strange and random (any of their EPs, Orbus Terrarum
), and/or a little unmemorable (Bicycles and Tricycles
). Finally, though, with the release of this album in early 2008 I can say that they have at least come close.
This album sees the return of a lot of the elements that made their debut the flawless masterpiece it was and still is, and some of the credit for that has to be given to the return of occasional The Orb collaborator Youth (Killing Joke
) which seems to have, at the very least, inspired nostalgia in Alex Patterson for The Orb’s early sound. With that nostalgia has also come the big bass heavy grooves, catchy vocals samples, and tripped-out sounds. They have also fully embraced the chill beats of their early era that will have you bobbing your head in an almost trance-like state. Most noticeably, they have also returned to their old reggae influence in a bigger way then ever before, and it actually helps to improve the chill vibe that permeates throughout this entire album.
Despite all the talk of returning to various older fundamentals, this album isn’t just some nostalgic trip through early 90’s house/electronica as there are still plenty of modern elements present such as the increased use of sampled vocal hooks which became prominent in the Cydonia
album. In addition, it does retain elements from their last few albums such as the tendency to use weird, directionless sounds at various intervals throughout songs. Also, this album is much more dense, musically, then the earlier albums that I keep referring to. It features a lot more samples and melodies which help to keep the songs from ever becoming too quiet as often happened during the U.F.Orb
If you’re unfamiliar with The Orb’s music you may be waiting for me to point out specific tracks or specific elements that are either exceptional or boring, but you can’t do that with this sort of album. This type of music only truly stands out when taken as a whole, not as individual tracks. It requires a lot of attention on the part of the listener to allow them to become fully absorbed in the chill vibe and dreamlike nature of the music. It requires them to simply let go and allow their head to hypnotically move to the beats while the various sounds, samples and voices swirl in out and out their speakers, and subsequently, their conscious thoughts; only then can this release (and most of The Orb’s releases) be truly appreciated.
If you liked The Orb’s early albums but were turned off by the various directional changes of future albums then this is Alex Patterson’s way of opening his arms and bringing you back into the fold. This is the release that can renew your faith in a band that those with an open mind and a love of electronic music probably never completely lost faith in to begin with. For those that are sadly unaware of this band then I can only assume that challenging electronica was never your thing to begin with, because if it was then you’d already own the debut and now this album by The Orb at the very least.