''What were the skies like when you were young"....''
A lot of progressive music from the early nineties occurred as a direct result of a new exciting and fashionable drug, Ecstasy. A crucial part of the emerging rave scene. Fast upbeat technical and euphoric gained popularity for the highs would be the main event at a rave, along with laser shows, a party atmosphere and vast numbers of young people with very busy sex lives. All of these experiences made a lot more sense, and were a lot of fun with the benefit of ecstasy. However, there are two sides to the experience of ecstasy.
The high does not last all night and long into the morning (obviously depending when they are taken), as the chemicals start leaving your system, they take on a whole new shape. So there's much less dancing and ingenious/insane conversations and strong feelings of love for all of those around you. You do not want to be in the middle of a very loud dance floor embracing a complete stranger while this is happening. You would completely freak out. This is how The Orb came about, after initially trying to make danceable trance music, they were invited, first as DJs, to create a ''Land Of Oz'' for insecure drug users within the legendary Heaven nightclub.
Their first attempts at music for this occasion were mixtures of dub reggae, with gentle drum beats, soothing synthesizers and uplifting samples from television and radio. Which finally grew through experimentation into the superb music on the record. Which comprised of soothing synth lines, gently throbbing bass, and fantastic sampling.
I think this may possibly be one of the most difficult records to describe the sound of two someone who has never heard it, it is very much like a wonderful dream. Sometimes soaring without any restriction of rhythms, while at other times it will sound almost mechanical with its time keeping. Some parts sound like a woman’s voice or a bird's song or even your stomach moaning. While other times it will sound like rainfall or a radiator. To some of you, that may sound like the ugliest record you could possibly imagine, if that’s the case, your in for an unexpected treat. If, like me, you like to hear something unique and beautiful, then this record belongs in your collection.
Standout moments on the record include, the gentle throbbing bass towards the end of ‘Earth (Gaia)’, the soothing choral elements to ‘Back Side of the Moon’. However, the most astounding track, which must remain The Orb’s Magnum Opus is the 18:48 mix of ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultra World’* Although there are several mixes available (differing between US and UK versions of the album, and two mixes featuring on each version) this is th greatest mix of such a grand, powerfully overwhelming piece of music.
New and unique music is always the result of new and unique occurrences, the growing rave-scene and the youth of the United Kingdom coming together to experience a new drug on the market, along with its bizarre effects resulted in a great shift in nineties music. Just as LSD and social injustice effected 1960s pop, so MDMA, police crackdowns of youth culture and the nearing end of the millennium contributed to some unbelievable experimental music.
I believe this is the greatest double album ever made, because it is perfect for what you should do when listening to a double album. Leave it alone. As background music, it will keep you in a good mood. Every now and again a part of it will grab your attention and astound you, this is the way ambient music is meant to be enjoyed, its pop music Jim, but not as we know. In fact, it is not pop music, ambient has always been closer to classical than the ever popular verse-chorus-verse that dominates peoples fascination with music.
*This very difficult name to remember comes from Blake’s 7, it is the name of one of the sound effects sampled for this mix.