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20080718

Apples and Oranges

Entry 884 posted in: 4. Orb Weavers


I want to be a little fishy... Pomme Fritz (aka The Orb's Little Album) (1994) was the second Orb cd I bought and it nearly made me lose my appetite for LX Paterson and his goofy friends. Although it was rather short I could never bear to listen to it in its entirety. The jewel box lay next to the player and for weeks I tried to digest it with the only result that I ejected the disk, mostly somewhere during the quite abominable We're Pastie To Be Grill You track.

In the end a cat with good taste peed on it so I finally found it was time to place the goddamn thing in between those other plastic do not open boxes that just gather dust in my cd collection. (If you really want to know it was in between Meatloaf’s Bad Out Of Hell and T’Pau’s China In Your Hand.)

But on the twelfth night of the twelfth month of the year 1999 I finally took a breath of fresh air, put the 'Little Album' in my cd player and listened to it in one go. Here is the (previously unpublished) report I wrote about that.


KARTOFFELN MIT SCHWEINEBRAT

It all starts in March 1994 when the Orb announces a new single: Pomme Fritz, to be part (with Valley and Plateau) of a new album that will be called Orbus Terranus. A few months later it is promoted as title track of The Orb's Little Album, little indeed, as this full cd has about the same length as their infamous single Blue Room.

Paterson explains in the press that they decided to reshape the single into an album to make it available for the fans. They don't want the same thing to happen as with Blue Room, labeled as a single and since long withdrawn from The Orb's back catalogue. Seems logical, but some paranoiacs believe that their new record label, Island, may have a hand in this. The adventurous days of the Island label are long gone and the record bozos are probably not happy with a group that continuously undermines long term record company management plans by issuing 40 minutes singles, albums for a day and a saucerful of very limited mixes for the small, but happy, few.

This doesn't mean it is a bad record. Is Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music bad? Not if you love the sound of dozen buzzing amplifiers, it is not. Is John and Yoko's Two Virgins crap? Not if you like the lurking game, with an ear against the wall, while your neighbours are having a go at the Kama Sutra inside the lid of a grand piano. Is Amon Düül's Minnelied a joke? Probably. (I bought mine for its cover alone).

Pomme Fritz has a nice picture as well, reminding me of the cover of the remastered Pink Floyd Relics cd, so once in a while I took it out to have a look at the strange machine.

Pink Floyd trivia. The LP version of Pink Floyd's Relics (1971) had a drawing by their drummer and once architectural student Nick Mason, representing a Pepperlandish machine. The most common cd version has a 3D model of this original drawing.

I DON'T LIKE FISH

I once mailed the superfluous statement to the quite lethargic alt.music.orb newsgroup that I never realised what a fine track Pomme Fritz (Meat'n Veg) really was until I heard it on the compilation album U.F.Off. Some Orb lover replied that Little Album wasn't that bad when listening to it on acid. I am not an acid man myself (and no other illegal drugs either, gentlemen of the FBI & CIA, whose Internet tracking machine that goes <ping> just went <ping> by detecting the word acid, <ping>, acid, <ping>, acid, <ping>, LOL) so tonight I planted myself as a Bombay potato in my couch with a glass of lethal, but legal, Italian Sambuca on the side and let the horror loose.

As I already stated, Pomme Fritz (Meat'n Veg) really is a nice track in the fine traditional Orbian mix between Kraftwerk and the Magic Roundabout. Somewhere near the end a voice promises us an electroshock therapy and that's what the rest of the record really is about, I guess. The only question is: how many electroshocks will it take to like the rest?

More Gills Less Fishcakes isn't that bad either if you take the Vickie Leandros Après Toi and sect leader annex mass killer Jim Jones samples for granted. Then it is time for the already cited We're Pastie To Be Grill You, seven minutes and fifteen seconds of the same sentence being repeated over and over again, in altered states, sometimes slowed down, sometimes accelerated, shaken, not stirred, run through a dozen of noise inducing filters. This is experiment for the sake of experiment and most of the time it sounds as if a Gregorian monk choir is singing inside a helium infested studio.

Emptying your mind and letting this track take possession of your brain is a trippy experience indeed, although not always a pleasant one.

As a matter of fact the sampled sentence does not really say We 're Pastie To Be Grill You but "We're happy to be with you" and Pink Floyd fans will probably compare it with the Roger Waters experiment on 1969's Ummagumma: Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict.

Pink Floyd trivia: Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict is basically a Roger Waters fun track using human voices and nature sounds playing at different speeds. The track may have been inspired by Ron Geesin who experimented with tape loops before and who asked Roger Waters to co-compose a soundtrack for the documentary movie The Body (1970). One track of their partnership, Our Song, used body noises to create music.

Bang'er'n Chips further elaborates on the electroshock sample, but can’t keep its promise "that you will be more relaxed than you've been in weeks". Alles Ist Schoen, German for "everything is beautiful", shows the composing skills of someone who will soon become a full time member of The Orb: Thomas Fehlmann. His musical roots are buried among the German minimalists whose repetitive electronically drones were very successful in the Seventies: Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, Gerhard Froese and Kraftwerk.

To end the record there is a two minutes joke track called His Immortal Logness vaguely build around the tradition or German march music.

WHAT EXACTLY IS A JOKE?

That's about it.

For the first time in years I finally managed to get through the complete menu. And while I realized that Pomme Fritz (The Orb's Little Album) isn't really that catastrophic at all I put on Robert Wyatt's masterpiece Rock Bottom to console myself. With its backwards taped vocals, its shrieking trumpets, its repetitive and monotonous drones, this record must have sound as alienating in 1975 as Pomme Fritz did to me in 1994.

You maybe have found out by now that a culinary theme runs through the album, but most titles also hide a few puns. Pomme Fritz is, of course, linked to the French Pommes Frites (French fries) but Fritz, as we all know from televised black and white Saturday afternoon movies, is also a nickname for the Germans. The Orb's Little Album was, for a great deal, recorded and mixed in Berlin and most of the numbers have had input from Thomas Fehlmann and his band Sun Electric.

More Gills Less Fishcakes could be a possible Pink Floyd pun when reversing the reading order of the title (Gilmour?) and while I'm at it Fish Rising was one of Steve Hillage's solo albums (a long shot, I admit).

I already explained that We're Pastie To Be Grill You is a bastardization of the "We're happy to be with you" sample. I can't make anything decent from Bang'er'n Chips although the term chips is used as a synonym for French fries (I won't get into details about the bang'er'n bit that probably means the same as ummagumma).

Alles Ist Schoen (or schön in neat German) is the literary translation for 'everything is beautiful'.

His Immortal Logness could be, with some imagination, interpreted as a little dance performed by the last living species of a crusty old dinosaur, which lives, as we all know, in the lake of Loch Ness.

EN FRANÇAIS S'IL VOUS PLAIT

In 1994 I found an advertisement for Le Petit Album in a French magazine with French song titles. Those are:

English Title French Title
Pomme Fritz (Meat'n Veg) Viandes Et Legumes
More Gills Less Fishcakes Oeufs Farcies Aux Cèpes
We're Pastie To Be Grill You Crèpe Suzette
Bang'er'n Chips Beatrice Dalle Et Brigitte Bardot
Alles Ist Schoen Tout Est Beau
His Immortal Logness Bon Appetit

Some happen to be literary translations of the English titles, some are not. I never figured out if the album was indeed issued with these French titles in France, or not.

CONCLUSION

Is Pomme Fritz "little more than a meeting of disparate electronic doodles from an endless array of natural and synthesised sources without the benefit of any obvious musical landmark" as Peter Kane wrote in Q? It certainly isn't the album I would point starting Orb fans to buy first. Do Pink Floyd fans really listen to the studio disk of Ummagumma? Who has ever made it through Nick Mason's Grand Vizier's Garden Party?

FLOYDABILITY

In mind but not in music.


Pomme Fritz has recently been reissued in a remastered version, containing a second disk with the following rare or unreleased mixes: Sausage Tats Mit Gravy, Star Twister, Potato Fields of Electric Gliding Blue (extended version of Alles Ist Schoen), Eastern Hot Dogs in Gardens of Dub and Wrapped with Salt & Vinegar.

I don't think I will ever listen to it.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: U.F.Orb 2007