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Obscured by Fluffy Clouds

Entry 889 posted in: 4. Orb Weavers

Recently The Orb has been re-issuing some of their classic albums, richly enlarged with extra tracks and remixes. Past week I reviewed Pomme Fritz, not exactly their best album (one of their worst, I might add). Today I have a go at Orbus Terrarum. The following text comes from an attempt to write an Orb biography somewhere around the turn of the millennium and has not been published before. 8-)))


1994. The world is not even partially recovered from Pomme Fritz or another Orb-like project sees the day: FFWD. This stands for Fripp, Fehlmann, Weston and Duncan Robert Alex Paterson. Robert Fripp, in the early Seventies among the troglodytes of symphonic rock with his band King Crimson, and famous for his guitar and tape technique called frippertronics or frippotronics (this was before the sampling age), puts endless layers of guitar over monotonous krautrock based ambient-trance style rhythms from The Orb. The album manages to experiment a lot further than Pomme Fritz and is often described as annoying, irritating or both.

Originally the band was to be named ORBert (and the album: Hidden In Heaven), but later on the makers decided to drop The Orb flag and to use FFWD instead. It has been out of print for ages and one can only hope for Robert Fripp to re-issue it on his Discipline label. In the Nineties there have been rumours about a follow-up for FFWD (but without Kris Weston). Two tracks may have surfaced later. One on Cydonia (Terminus) and one on the Thomas Fehlmann's solo album 'one to three. Overflow; ninene/nd' (Friedrichstraβe). The 2003 Back To Mine compilation, an album with LX's favourite ambient tunes, includes the FFWD track Hempire.

Bad reviews and lousy selling figures for Pomme Fritz on one hand and differences of what to do with the next record causes Trash (Kris Weston) to leave the band. But the split may also have to do something with the bankruptcy of their management company Wau! Mr Modo, leaving the duo in debt. The subsidiary record company, Inter-Modo, and a recording studio near Battersea are bankrupt as well.

The Orb survived a barrage of legal wrangles, financial upsets and personnel changes to deliver their latest collection of Ambient musical adventures. Mark J. Prendergast gets the word from the group's founder, Alex Paterson. Prendergast, Mark J., Journey To The Centre Of The Orb, July 1995, hosted at: sound on sound.

LX Paterson is back on his own, but not for long. In 1995 the long awaited Orbus Terrarum is released (note the title change from Orbus Terranus to Orbus Terrarum).

This is a giant leap forwards for some, a journey further into ambient regression for others. The absent Kris Trash Weston is mentioned as author on all tracks but has lost his credits as producer. Alex Paterson, Andy Hughes and Thomas Fehlmann sign for that, and this trio will now be officially known as The Orb, aided by a new drummer Nick Burton and bassist Simon Phillips on a six months tour.

Orbus Terrarum: a further exploration of minimalist and repetitive rhythms

Valley starts the cd promising enough and this version surely is better than the live one. Plateau, on the other hand, has somewhat suffered from the (very long) studio treatment when compared with the Orb Live 93 rendition that was richly spiced with randomly thrown-away samples. The first two tracks have the same feel and structure as the cosmic sound paintings made by Klaus Schulze in the Seventies. When in the right, sleepy, thoughtless or transcendent mood these are very interesting to digest, otherwise, they may just sound long and monotonous.

Oxbow Lakes with its clash between Paterson's romantic piano and the nervous beat of the dance generation reminds the listener of the inventive pre-Island Orb. This is a great piece of Orb-music indeed and the first half hour has passed away rather agreeable...

Montagne D'Or (French for golden mountain) is not the exact translation of its German subtitle Der Gute Berg (the good mountain). It starts rather moody in an ambient kind of way before getting slightly more upbeat at the five minutes mark. Neither Steve Hillage, nor Robert Fripp are on the track but the presence of psychedelic distorted noises, played by B.J. Cole on a pedal steel guitar, surely reminds me of them. At 8'12" the track suddenly regresses into an Ozric Tentacles horror-show and one can only feel lucky because the track is nearly at its end.

Sweet White River Junction starts Orb-like enough, complete with excerpts from a self awareness tape, ever-present bubbling water sounds, some machine noises and an offside Kraftwerk beat. At nine minutes and counting it passes back at the start, contradicting the sample that promised that this tune would carry us deeper and deeper...

The past 5 tracks would have made a very ambient Orb album, not one of their best and a bit too monotonous for the heart beat pig meat generation, but a nice gentle effort indeed. But the album isn't over yet and some of the freakier stuff still has to come...

A rather intriguing repetitive tune shapes Occidental's main motive until The Orb gets enough of it. It is the starting point for unleashing a bunch of directionless sound effects that can easily compete with the weaker parts of Pomme Fritz. First Slug Dub seems to be a fun track like Sticky End (on U.F.Orb) or His Immortal Logness (on Pomme Fritz), built around a Billy Bobtail story, but soon after the start the joke starts to wear thin. These monotonous doodles can't keep the listener's full attention for long. Only the attentive Pink Floyd fan in me woke up when some seagull noises a la Echoes passed at 10'25". I had a drink, a very long piss, and hoped that the record would be over when I returned 5 minutes later... but unfortunately, it was still on the run...


Heavy Orb-fans find this album (together with Pomme Fritz and FFWD) the best thing LX has ever made. Personally I find the Pomme Fritz and Orbus Terranum years their weakest period, although each album has some fine moments (Oxbow Lakes is probably the best Orb track ever). One feels that no compromises were made to compose Terranum. I can surely appreciate their efforts but in minimal quantities only.

The 2008 version of Orbus Terranum contains an extra disk with the following rare or previously unreleased mixes:

Plateau (all hands on deck mix - 2am) – 15 minutes long remix, similar to the live version.
Slug Dub (dumpy dub)
Valley (mix 3 dubby)
White River Junction (zoom vinegar mix)
Oxbow Lakes (andy's space mix) – released before on the very limited Orbscure Trax promo album (1000 copies).
Peace Pudding (Occidental). Probably not an Occidental remix but an extended version of a (rather rare) Orb track from 1997 called 'Cocksville USA'.

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