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Andy Hughes (1965 - 2009): gone to Orblivion

Entry 1512 posted in: 4. Orb Weavers

Put your head phones on to cover the sound of the bullets
Close your eyes not to see the children dying
Stop breathing to avoid the fumes
Escape with The Orb into a wonder land
Where no one dies...
Trash, To Nat Or Not To Nat, e-mail, 2003-04-10.

The sad news started sipping in on Tuesday and wasn't immediate denied, nor confirmed by those who have a direct telephone line with The Orb, always a bad sign.

Andy Hughes, band member from 1995 to 2001, had died from cancer. Following the true Orbian tradition of general clumsiness the webmaster of the official MySpace page had attempted to publish a press release but had failed completely, leaving visitors and fans speculating what was hiding behind the empty blog post. At the same time all the official webpage would show was that it was updating ad infinitum. Someone found a YouTube comment, from a few days before, written by a family member, with the message that Hughes only had a few hours left to live. So apparently this was for real….

Andy Hughes started to work with the band as an engineer (Live 93, Pomme Fritz, FFWD) and joined the collective - calling The Orb a band is a bit weird as members come and go with every album – on Orbus Terrarum (1995), as the de facto replacement for Kris ‘Trash’ Weston who had left the group in rather mysterious circumstances. Perhaps it is better to say that Trash had huge problems with LX Paterson, Andy Hughes and the rest of the world in general.

Although Orbus Terrarum was a far better album than its loony predecessor Pomme Fritz, and the even weirder Robert Fripp sidestep FFWD, it wasn't the album the Top-Of-The-Pops public, nor the record company was waiting for. It does contain the heavenly Oxbow Lakes though, a track I will be eternally grateful for.

Hughes artistic input on Orbus Terrarum was limited to two tracks (besides producing and engineering) put this would soon change. Orblivion (1997) was (and still is) a small masterpiece and set the sound of The Orb for the late nineties. Fans from the Trash years found the album a sellout but personally I still think it holds better than the multi-million seller U.F.Orb. Andy shared writing credits on all tracks minus one. Orblivion sold quite well and its single Toxygene reached #4 in the UK.

Then came the Cydonia disaster, the album was recorded, but not released by Island (the record company was in the middle of a restructuring operation). A second master lead to the same result and when the third, partially revised, version finally hit the record stores in 2001, 20th-century Orb was outdated, old-fashioned and literally a millennium behind. Fans and would-be buyers had already downloaded or bought bootleg copies of the previous (unreleased) versions anyway, much to the anger of LX Paterson who blaimed Andy to have leaked the masters to the public. As a result Hughes left the band, somewhere between version one and three, but several tracks still carry his mark.

Actually Cydonia isn’t all that bad. Hughes was particularly proud of A Mile Long Lump Of Lard, one of the 7 tracks he co-wrote and that I have described on this blog as the best Orb track they made in ages. Another chef d’oeuvre on the album is Terminus in the fine ambient tradition of the band.

This could have been the end of this obituary but Hughes appeared, quite unexpected, in 2007 on what is still the most recent Orb studio album, The Dream. That album, and I’m really ashamed now to admit that I haven’t got a clue how it sounds, was the first without Thomas Fehlmann in ages, but had some old friends returning to The Orb roots: Youth, Steve Hillage, Aki Omori (who was on Cydonia as well), Greg Hunter, the Corpral,… Andy Hughes appears at the mixing console on two tracks: Vuja De and Dirty Disco Dub.

Andy Hughes, an electronic music producer and DJ best know for his work with The Orb, passed away Friday, June 12th after a short illness. During the last few days of his life, he was cared for by the staff of the Liver Intensive Care Unit at Kings College Hospital in London. Andy’s parents have requested that if you would like to make a donation to charity in memory of Andy, his life and his work, then please use this page to donate to the Kings College Hospital Charity.

Unfinished Projects has posted the following Orb reviews and stories before:

The Orb with Andy Hughes as a band member
Obscured by Fluffy Clouds (Orbus Terrarum)
The Orb Lives On (Orblivion)
The Orb On Mars (Cydonia)

The Orb with Andy Hughes as sound technician / mixer
Apples and Oranges (Pomme Fritz)
Orb Weavers @ Unfinished Projects.

Andy Hughes mystery track

Gel-Sol, who is present on The Orb mailing group for as long as I can remember, found an unreleased Andy Hughes track in his collection.

I don't have much info on this track, let alone a name. For all I know, this track was unreleased, and was intended for a future em:t records compilation (em:t folded shortly after this, most likely for picking up shit bands like Gel-Sol and 302 Acid. ;P).
I was visiting the UK in the summer of '05 when Matt Hall of em:t records played this for me. I believe he said the track was unfinished, but I had to have it! Either way, this mix sounds quite good.

You are free to download the mystery track in question and if you find it good enough to pay for it you are hereby invited to donate something at Kings College Hospital Charity.