« Bend It! | Main | Stardust »

20080809

The Orb Lives On

Entry 915 posted in: 4. Orb Weavers


Asylum cover Recently The Orb has been re-issuing some of their classic albums, richly enlarged with extra tracks and remixes. The first two records had lifted The Orb from an obscure DJ-set in the backroom of a techno temple to ambient house superstars, but their superstar status soon melted away with their following darker albums, dark because the modal fan couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel anymore. Weird, experimental and monotonous, it seemed that the members of The Orb had lost all musical direction. Enough, said record company Island, who had invested a lot in The Orb, it is about time to make a second U.F.Orb! All right, said LX, time to get out of oblivion, here is Orblivion! (Underneath text taken from a previously unreleased discography of the band, written by moi).


In 1997 Toxygene is released. It is a single in the Perpetual Dawn tradition where humorous patterns and ska rhythms interact. Island throws the story round that this track was originally a Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene-remix.

Just like Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells 2, 3, ad infinitum) and Meatloaf (Bad Out Of He1l 2) Jean Michel Jarre couldn't resist releasing an Oxygene sequel. Jarre is an electronic composer floating between the ambient and elevator muzak whose Oxygene and Equinoxe are well worth the try. I still feel that Souvenir De Chine from the album Les Concerts En Chine (1982) is a small (and short) ambient masterpiece.

Toxygene grants The Orb a second visit to the BBC's TOTP, although some fans find the poppy single slightly over the top. The track is co-credited to Fil Le Gonidec, a colleague who replaces Thomas Fehlmann on live gigs and a fellow member of the Killing Joke gang from eaons ago (LX Paterson used to be a roadie for that band.)

Orblivion, the album that follows, has a smashing cover representing some great buildings and statues from all over the world:

  • Athens (Parthenon)
  • Barcelona (Gaudi's Sagrada Familia Cathedral)
  • Berlin ('Unter den Linden' angel statue near the Brandenburger Tor)
  • Brussels (Atomium)
  • Gizeh (Pyramid)
  • Kuala Lumpur (Petronas Twin Towers)
  • London (Big Ben)
  • Madras (Taj Mahal)
  • New York (Empire State Building)
  • Paris (Eiffel Tower, I'Obelisque and the Notre Dame)
  • Pisa (Leaning Tower)
  • Seattle (Space Needle)
  • Washington (White House) and perhaps the
  • Transamerica building in Los Angeles.

This may have been a visual leftover from an idea LX had in '93 when he wanted to issue an album based upon a musical trip around various cities of the world.

Orblivion tries hard to be a commercial comeback for the (lost) public who cherished U.F.Orb. Steve Hillage (on Delta Mk II, Ubiquity), Miquette Giraudy (on Delta Mk II, Ubiquity, Log Of Deadwood) and Tom Green (on Bedouin, Secrets, Passing Of Time) are welcomed back as part-time band members. But alas, times have changed, as even I found out when I tried to plug the album to a twelve years younger cousin. His verdict was that The Orb weren’t half as funny as Daft Punk, now there was a band that really knew how to be witty. Suddenly The Orb had become a dinosaur of ambient house.

And the loyal fans who had blindly followed LX in his weirder experiments (Pomme Fritz, FFWD, Orbus Terrarum) found this rhythmic album a sell-out, only made to please the record company anyway.

A SHORT REVIEW

With 13 tracks on 1 single album, going from 6 seconds for the shortest to 9 and half minutes for the longest, The Orb has certainly moved into a new direction. Some years ago 13 tracks would have meant at least a triple album (the Ultraworld double album only has 10 tracks), but The Orb has learned not to repeat the same gimmick over and over again and stays well away from the 10 minutes mark per song.

Nearly every track has a happy beat. The typical ambient Orb doodling, a trademark on their first album that would often go on for at least a quarter of an hour, has been limited to a strict minimum. These restrictions also show in the spoken parts department: long conversational pieces, taken from obscure Russian or American sources, are mostly avoided although the odd one-liner still appears here and there: a sample from the McCarthy trials (Have you ever been a member of the communist party?) on Delta Mk II and, but I’m guessing here, a Married With Children joke on Secrets. The only exception is S.A. L. T (Scorpio Aquarius Leo Taurus), based upon a monologue from the movie Naked by Mike Leigh.

CONCLUSION

Orblivion is a concept: a journey throughout the musical world combining happy beats, computer blips, oriental rhythms and eastern sounds: Ubiquity, Bedouin.
Orblivion is fun: Toxygene, 72 (sample taken from the musical Hair) and even LX's mum (on Asylum).
Orblivion is ambient: Passing Of Time.
Orblivion is rhythm: Delta Mk II, Asylum, and Secrets.
Orblivion is: Molten Love.

Not their best but I kinda like it.


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

Delta Mk II (love bites mix) – very ambient
Bedouin (the sheik’s film mix) – although this track shares the same title with a remix on Orbscure Trax it is quite different
Log of Deadwood (implanting machines mix)
Secrets (i love a woman in uniform mix)
Passing of Time (ambient mix)
Molten Love (orbits of venus mix) - extended version of the ‘berlin session film mix'
S.A.L.T. (snow mix) – (superfluous) version without the monologue
Toxygene (kris needs up for a fortnight mix) – previously released as a single
Asylum (soul catcher's mix) – previously released as a single

The Orblivion singles (Toxygene and Asylum) have all been issued in different formats, versions and mixes. Not all remixes can be found on this enhanced version. I personally find it a pity that the You Are Evil But I Like You Mix from Asylum has not been included.


If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Obscured by Fluffy Clouds