The Relic Samples
There was a time when I would put in the latest Orb CD and murmur blimey! Blimey because The Orb pleasantly surprised you or blimey because Alex 'LX' Paterson and band utterly frustrated you. They had that effect on me for years from their very first album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld (1991) until the quite underrated Cydonia (2001) and often the wow! and shit! effect could be witnessed on the same disk, most notably on Orbus Terrarum that probably contains the freakiest ambient track ever (the heavenly Oxbow Lakes) but also some of the worst.
The Millennium Orb
After 2001 Paterson continued to make albums under the Orb banner but the wow! effect had largely disappeared and his most prolific output lay on quite a few (from good to excellent) compilation and/or remix albums: Dr. Alex Paterson's Voyage Into Paradise, Auntie Aubrey's Excursions Beyond The Call Of Duty (containing an Orb remix of Rick Wright's Runaway), Bless You (the best of the Badorb label), Orbsessions I and II (outtakes), Back To Mine, The Art Of Chill and last but not least The BBC Sessions.
For ages The Orb has been called the Pink Floyd of ambient dance but the only fusion between both bands was the use of some Pink Floyd samples on early Orb anthems (the four note Shine On You Crazy Diamond signature tune on A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld) and the presence of Pink Floyd bass player ad interim Guy Pratt on a couple of Orb albums. Contrary to a stubborn belief the so-called ambient (and illegal) Pink Floyd remix albums from the Nineties were not the work from The Orb, nor from Alex Paterson. Neither will we ever know Pink Floyd's retaliation: when the band worked on their 1994 The Divison Bell album they ended up with so many left-over material that - in the words of Nick Mason - "we considered releasing it as a second album, including a set we dubbed The Big Spliff, the kind of ambient mood music that we were bemused to find being adopted by bands like The Orb".
Exactly one year ago Alex Paterson, who has always been a bit of a bigmouth, revealed: ‘I’ve just started work on an album with David Gilmore (sic) from Pink Floyd which I think every Orb and Pink Floyd fan will want to hear' but that news was hurriedly demoted by David Gilmour.
On the 17th of August of this year, however, the David Gilmour blog had the following to reveal:
David is not working with The Orb on a new album, contrary to some reports, but you may remember that he had been in the studio jamming with Martin “Youth” Glover in recent months. (…) Alex Paterson was not involved in the sole jamming session and the only plan initially was for David to play guitar on that one track.
However, as it turns out and as you can see, the result of that jam session has now been spread across the next Orb album, Metallic Spheres, which will be released as ‘The Orb featuring David Gilmour’. So there you have it. He was working on an album with The Orb. Sort of.
If I may read a bit between the lines I feel some friction here between Sir David and this Orb thingy. But the next day, David Gilmour's official website had the next comment:
David's 2009 jam session with ambient collective The Orb has grown into an album, Metallic Spheres, to be released via Columbia/Sony Records in October. David's contribution to the charity song Chicago, in aid of Gary McKinnon, sparked the interest of producer Youth (Martin Glover), who remixed the track and invited David to his studio for a recording session.
With additional contributions from Orb co-founder Alex Paterson, the album took shape from 2009 into 2010, eventually becoming Metallic Spheres, to be released by The Orb featuring David Gilmour. (underlined by FA.)
Calling LX Paterson an Orb co-founder is technically not untrue, but it feels a little weird when you have just been presenting Martin Glover. It is comparable to describing Syd Barrett as a Pink Floyd co-founder while discussing Bob Klose. Agreed, Youth (from Killing Joke fame) was probably around when The Orb saw the light of day but it is generally acknowledged that the band was formed in 1988 by Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty. Cauty's primary project however, the Kopyright Liberation Front (with Bill Drummond) pretty soon outgrew The Orb and when - at a certain point in time - some Orb remixes were released in Germany as KLF remixes this provoked a rupture in the co-operation between the duo as Alex and Jimmy started fighting over… copyrights.
After the split between KLF and The Orb Martin Glover helped LX out with two tracks (on two separate albums): Little Fluffy Clouds and Majestic, but he did not become a member of the band. Only in 2007 Youth will join The Orb for a one album project: The Dream.
Together with the announcement on David Gilmour's website, and then we're back on the 18th of August of this year, a promotional video for the Metallic Spheres album is uploaded to YouTube. Depicting only Youth and David Gilmour several Orb fans wonder where LX Paterson, and thus The Orb, fits in this all. The first, original movie disappears after a couple of days for so-called 'copyright' reasons but is rapidly replaced with a second version, containing some hastily inserted images of LX Paterson strolling through the grasslands and recording some outdoor musique concrète. It feels, once again, as if the Floyd-Orb connection didn't go down well at the Gilmour camp and Paterson's image was only included on the promo video after some pressure had taken place. But the above is of course all pure speculation and not based upon any fact, so tells you Felix Atagong who has been closely following the band for over two decades.
Bit by bit we hear how the album came into place. It all started with David Gilmour's charity project for Gary McKinnon, an X-Files adhering half-wit who hacked into American military and NASA computers in order to find out about extra-terrestrial conspiracy theories. Because of this he faces extradition from England to the USA were apparently they take these kind of idiots very seriously, see also the 43rd president who governed the country from 2001 to 2009.
It is note quite clear if Gilmour asked Youth (David Glover) to make a remix of the Chicago charity tune or if Youth got hold of the project and proposed to help (I've come across both explanations). The two may know each other through Guy Pratt who played in Glover's band Brilliant in 1986 (LX Paterson was their roadie for a while). In 1990 Youth founded Blue Pearl with Durga McBroom who had toured with Pink Floyd for the previous three years. Amongst the session musicians on their Naked album are Guy Pratt, David Gilmour and Rick Wright.
This isn't Glover's only connection with the Floyd however. In 1995 he teamed up with Killing Joke colleague Jaz Coleman to arrange and produce a symphonic tribute album: Us and Them: Symphonic Pink Floyd, but only The Old Tree With Winding Roots Behind The Lake Of Dreams remix from Time combines a modern beat with romantic classical music.
To spice up the Chicago remix Youth invited David Gilmour in his home studio and out of it came a twenty minutes guitar jam. Glover soon found out that he could expand the session into an ambient suite and asked old chum LX Paterson for his opinion and to flavour the pieces with typical Orbian drones and samples; rather than to turn this into a sheepish Fireman-clone.
The Orb featuring David Gilmour can only be a win/win situation. Orb fans have dreamed about this collaboration for the past two decades and that will add to the sales figures for sure. And although artist royalties go to the support of Gary McKinnon there will always be a spillover effect for the artists involved, good news for The Orb whose last album Baghdad Batteries sunk faster than the Kursk in the Barents Sea.
Rest us to say that an Orb album is an Orb album when it has got the name Orb on it, whether you like it or not (and in the case of Okie Dokie, not a bit).
Metallic Spheres starts with Gilmour's pedal steel guitar over some keyboard drones that makes me think of those good old days when the KLF shattered the world with their ambient masterpiece Chill Out (LX Paterson - as a matter of fact - contributed to that album, although uncredited). But soon after that Gilmour's guitar wanders off in his familiar guitar style with axiomatic nods to The Wall and The Division Bell albums. A welcome intermezzo is Black Graham with acoustic guitar, not from Gilmour but by ragtime busker Marcia Mello. The 'metallic side' flows nicely throughout its 29 minutes and has fulfilled its promise of being 'the ambient event of the year' quite accurately.
The CD is divided into two suites: a 'metallic side' and a 'spheres side' (and each 'side' is subdivided in five - not always discernable - parts). The second suite however, is more of the same, clearly lacks inspiration and ends out of breath at the 20 minutes mark.
So no wow! effect here (but no shit! either)... Youth has done what was expected from him and produced an all-in-all agreeable but quite mainstream product leaving ardent anoraky Orb fans with their hunger, but perhaps winning a few uninitiated souls.
As far as I am concerned this is about the best Orb CD I heard for the past couple of years, but it is still far from Orblivion, U.F.Orb or Ultraworld. But as this is 2010 already you won't hear me complaining.
Previous Metallic Spheres posts
About, let me count, thirty-four to thirty-five years ago I was seriously investigating the so-called UFO phenomenon. Or whatever serious means for a sixteen years old adolescent who urgently wants to get laid but has found out that the chance to witness an encounter of the third kind is statistically more probable than to have an close encounter with the opposite sex.
I was a member of the Belgian Sobeps association, long before the Belgian UFO wave hit the skies and as the Internet was still a science-fiction thing we had to rely on their magazine Inforespace and the books, case files and real UFO pictures they sold by mail-order to their members. They also had an electronic UFO detector in their catalogue what made me wonder, already then, if they just weren't a bunch of petty crooks. I must still have a Betty and Barney Hill picture somewhere that I bought through their shop and who were then (and maybe still now) regarded as the proverbial Saul-stroke-Paul of the Holy Church of Ufology.
After a while opportunity knocked, even for me, and I didn't see the purpose anymore to devote my life to the flying saucer - abducting people for out-of-orbit enemas - enigma. But I am still mildly amused by the phenomenon, especially from a historical perspective. Not that long ago (at least not on the cosmic timescale) I partially read The Coming Race (1871) from Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a (rather tedious) adventure book that apparently inspired Nazi-Germany to start building flying saucers. An internet search lead me to through several dubious websites, some that might even be legally forbidden to consult in my country as they vehemently propagate what I will mildly describe as Aryan beliefs, and only strengthening me in my opinion that for crackpots from all over the world the internet is Ultima Thule indeed.
If I have understood it well American secret services grabbed nazi occult mysteries by the truckload although it is not clear if they could ever restore the phone lines to the Aldebaran star system that became an après-guerre nudist resort for the mystical and mythical Vril Society pin-up girls (see image above and try not to drool). Thanks to these secret nazi inventions the Americans not only landed on the moon (although paradoxically enough conspiracy theory buffs deny this ever happened) but they also tested anti-gravity engines in earth-designed flying saucers and solved the so-called zero-point energy problem.
How do I know all this? Because Gary McKinnon told us so.
Beam me up Scotty
Gary McKinnon is a Glasgow hacker who thought for a while he was a Lone Gunman on a mission against the American government. Wanting to prove the things mentioned above he hacked into 97 United States military and NASA computers over a 13-month period between February 2001 and March 2002, using the name 'Solo'.
Hacking is not really the term one should use here, more trial and error. Consulting a 1985 copy of Hugo Cornwall's The Hacker's Handbook McKinnon copied a Perl script that looked for Windows computers without a password and to his amazement there were still lots of unprotected computers residing in the NASA and military networks 15 years after the book appeared. One can duly wonder what these CIA, FBI and military secret service IT security guys had been doing in the meantime. Playing Pong, probably.
"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.", wrote Douglas Adams in the twelfth chapter of Mostly Harmless (1992). That quote may not be entirely his. Nobel price winner and inventor of the H-bomb Edward Teller noted down a couple of years before: "There's no system foolproof enough to defeat a sufficiently great fool." Anyway, in 2002 Gary McKinnon was the fool who undermined the American's pigheaded assumption of safety. Military security thought they had devised this big unsinkable Titanic and all it took was a entrepreneurial nerd with a screwdriver and a sack of sugar to pour inside the gas tank.
Rather than admitting they had done an enormous security cock-up the American powers-that-be turned Gary McKinnon into a terrorist super-hacker whose sole intention it was to metamorphose American secrets to putty and hand them over to Al-Queda, who - as we all know - have been praying a long time for this UFO technology. In consequence Gary could face a 60-years prison sentence if condemned before an American judge. Unfortunately the UK voted the 2003 extradition act making it possible to extradite UK citizens for offences committed against US law, even though the alleged offence may have been committed in the UK by a person living and working in the UK. A review of the extradition act was voted down by British parliament although there is a growing consensus amongst British members of parliament that Gary McKinnon will not stand a fair trial in the US.
Several charities have been raised to help Gary McKinnon in his struggle against the extradition and in August 2009 David Gilmour, Chrissie Hynde, Bob Geldof and Gary McKinnon recorded the Chicago (Change The World) single. The only awareness it ever raised was that extraditing Bob Geldof to Guantanamo Bay would be a benefit for mankind to say the least. Perhaps the US authorities could consider that for a while.
As a Pink Floyd collector for over thirty years now, with over a dozen legit versions of Dark Side Of The Moon, I was obviously offended. Probably I am just being jealous here but I still can't grasp the concept that a lawbreaking idiot with a UFO fixation got a chance to make a record with one of the ten best guitarists of this world while moi who has in his possession the ridiculously shaped Love On The Air (1984) picture disk and Gilmour's lamentable Smile (2006) single will never get the change to meet his idol from less than a 100 meters distance. Phew, nice I have finally got that off my chest.
I’ve just started work on an album with David Gilmour from Pink Floyd which I think every Orb and Pink Floyd fan will want to hear.
The news was almost immediately downsized by David Gilmour who acknowledged he had jammed a bit in a studio with Martin 'Youth' Glover but that nothing had been confirmed 'with regards to any structure for the recordings or firm details re: any release plans'.
But this week David Gilmour's blog had the following news:
David's 2009 jam session with ambient collective The Orb has grown into an album, Metallic Spheres, to be released via Columbia/Sony Records in October. David's contribution to the charity song Chicago, in aid of Gary McKinnon, sparked the interest of producer Youth (Martin Glover), who remixed the track and invited David to his studio for a recording session. With additional contributions from Orb co-founder Alex Paterson, the album took shape from 2009 into 2010, eventually becoming Metallic Spheres, to be released by The Orb featuring David Gilmour.
The album will be divided into two 25 minutes parts with five movements each, a 'Metallic Side' and a 'Spheres Side'. The Orb will consist of founder Alex Paterson (sound manipulation, keyboards and turntables) with part-time member Youth adding bass, keyboards and handling the production. It is not certain if Thomas Fehlmann (full member of The Orb since 1995, absent on The Dream (2007), but back on Bagdhad Batteries (2009)) and long time Orb and Pink Floyd collaborator Guy Pratt will be present or not. For the moment it looks like a three men line-up with David Gilmour contributing guitar, lap steel guitar and some of his Chicago vocals.
Simon Ghahary created the artwork (see image above) and all artist royalties will go to helping Gary McKinnon fight his extradition.
When Gary McKinnon logged in on the military computers he allegedly found proof of extra-terrestrial involvement in the NASA space program, but unfortunately his telephone line did not allow him to download the pictures and documents. The only tangible result of his actions will be a Floydian cooperation that Orb (and some Pink Floyd) fans have been dreaming about for the last two decades.
Long live Gary McKinnon, long live the greys! U.F.FlOrb is finally on its way! And don't worry, I'm sure those pretty Aldebarans will rescue Gary if he ever gets imprisoned in the land of the free.
Pink Dreams (first announcement of the Gilmour Paterson cooperation)
The Orb section: Orb Weavers
The Pink Floyd section: The Pink Thing
It has been the most wonderful week. After I had read a favourable review of Douglas Coupland’s Generation A in the newspaper I bought me the book and I am in the middle of reading that one now. The story is put in a future not so very far from now where bees have disappeared altogether and the weather is constantly playing tricks on the population, like suburban smog.
When 5 persons around the world get stung they are immediately abducted by special services into a research centre that reminds the reader of the white room where David Bowman encountered himself. The quintet is repeatedly injected, inspected, detected, infected, neglected and selected (borrowed from Alice's Restaurant © Arlo Guthrie).
When apparently nothing common between them is found they are put back into the world where they have troubles coping with their instant Youtube superstar status. They all meet for the first time, because their stay at the research centre was in splendid isolation, on a distant island where the last beehive was ever found and that is now a UNESCO world heritage site.
The island has turned in a Mad Max environment with murders being committed on a daily base. The five get the assignment to tell stories to each other, like the people in the Decameron, because that might be a way to find out why the bees exactly choose them…
This week the new Orb album also landed on my desk. It is called Baghdad Batteries and was a pleasant surprise. It isn’t a masterpiece but I found it pretty cool that they have returned to their ambient roots. It is pleasantly soothing.
If anybody ever reads this shit it might be good to know that a couple of months ago I had some eye injections that made me exactly feel as if someone was sticking a needle through my eye. This week I had some tests to see if these injections had really worked or if they had just been a weird Dr. Caligari experiment.
First I was summoned by one of the most ravishing women I have ever seen, she made me read cards that went like DEFPOTEC but all I could think of was that she could defpotec me all night long. A while later, still in a happy mood, I was reading Generation A by the way, I went to the picture man who was going to take pictures.
I had to roll up my sleeve and I was injected with a yellow contrast fluid. The nurse warned me that I might look yellow; well not look yellow, but that everything I would look at would appear yellowish.
Wow! All of a sudden I was feeling like Neil, the hippie, on a sunny day, humming Daydream Believer, although in my case, and I kid you not, a rather popular Coldplay tune was ringing through my head.
Once home I had to take a leak, and my urine was fluorescently yellow as if I had eaten a six-pack of Stabilo Boss marker-pens. If they could make this thing in orange and pink it would be a great hit on summer festivals around the world, I thought. Let’s all do a rainbow pee.
And today I also purchased me – what is officially titled –
HITCHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
PART SIX OF THREE
AND ANOTHER THING
The book is written by Eoin Colfer, with a name like that you become either a science fiction writer or an Irish folk dancer, I guess, but Eoin didn’t take the easy way out. But the book will have to wait until I finish Generation A.
I’m yellowy pissed anyway that for the first time in history a hitchhiker book actually appears on the day that it was promised to appear. At least they could’ve said on the twelfth of October that it had all been a joke and that - to celebrate and honour Mr. Douglas Adams - the book would appear in another timeframe.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in these as well:
General Mish Mash: Babylon By Bus
Orb Weavers: Pink Dreams
Some exciting news arrived last weekend through a Pink Floyd portal. Alex Paterson, head spinner of the band The Orb, said in an interview that he and David Gilmour had entered a studio ‘to work on an album’.
The news was vague and titillating enough to make all kind of assumptions. Did this mean that LX & DG were attempting a Fireman trick à la Youth and Mc Cartney? Perhaps Alex had finally lured Dave in his spider web with a little help from Guy Pratt who can be found as bass player and co-composer on several Orb, Pink Floyd and David Gilmour records from the past? (Pratt and Paterson also teamed up in a band called The Transit Kings.)
The Orb's record output is prolific and even then a lot of tunes and mixes stay hidden in the closet until LX decides to put them on a compilation album somewhere. They just celebrated a third release in the Orbsessions series from record company Malicious Damage and according to some online reviews I read it is either brilliant or utterly irritating, which makes it typically Orb, I guess. I haven't bought Baghdad Batteries yet, my days that I ran to the shop to get me their latest release are over as The Orb has left my attention span somewhat thanks to the record Okie Dokie that wasn't okie dokie at all but a mediocre Thomas Fehlmann album with the brand name glued over it to sell a few extra copies more.
It took me over a year to listen to The Dream that followed Okie Dokie and although it has Youth written all over it the result is pretty average. Not pretty average as in pretty average but pretty average as in pretty but nevertheless a bit average. Probably I’ll get to Baghdad Batteries one of these days but I wouldn’t hold my breath, if I were you…
Although one fan found that the announcement came about two decades and a half too late the GilmOrb collaboration was making both Floyd and Orb communities very excited but excitement is something David Gilmour does not favour anymore in his line of work. This week the following comment could be found on his official website…
David & Orb Rumours True – Up To A Point
Recent comments by ambient exponents The Orb's Alex Paterson that they have been collaborating with David Gilmour are true – up to a point. David has done some recording with The Orb and producer Youth, inspired initially by the plight of Gary McKinnon. However, nothing is finalised, and nothing has been confirmed with regards to any structure for the recordings or firm details re: any release plans.
In other words: forget it…
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Andy Hughes (1965 - 2009): gone to Orblivion
Andy Hughes (1965 - 2009): gone to Orblivion
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.
zORBa, the G|r|eek
The Orb hasn’t been sitting still the past year. In February they released a new album, called The Dream and five disks of their back catalogue have been re-released, with extra tracks to draw the money out of the collector’s pocket.
Not that long ago they already had unleashed two rarities albums called Orbsessions One and Two and an ambient volume in the The Art Of Chill collection (a previous volume of that same collection, mixed by Steve Hillage from System7, also contained a Paterson collaboration). March also saw a promo-mix-cd called The Orb vs Freeze, containing 3 unreleased tracks, only available as an extra with a Greek music magazine.
But the best was yet to come and this week saw the release of The BBC Sessions 1989-2001. Of course completists have been complaining that not all Orb sessions (especially those with John Peel) have been put on the double cd set, so the original ‘working’ title of the compilation (The Complete BBC Sessions) had to be shortened a bit (Amazon USA however is still advertising it as the complete sessions).
It obviously starts with A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That
Rules From The Centre Of The Underworld (Loving You). Did I
just wrote underworld? Seems that there is a typo on the cover. The
track in question is of course titled: A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating
Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld (Loving You).
I once compared this ambient pièce de résistance to Pink Floyd’s A
Saucerful Of Secrets. This BBC version uses samples from Minnie
Riperton’s Loving You, Grace Jones’ Slave To The
Rhythm and Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond. For
obvious, copyright, reasons the tracks isn’t credited to Jimmy Cauty and
Alex Paterson alone, like it used to be when it was first released, but
to a Pleiades of composers and authors, in alphabetical order:
The collector will find it amusing that the Stooges cover of No Fun is added as well (a reminder of the days that Alex Paterson was a roadie for Killing Joke and used to sing that song to test the PA) and a live rendition of an excellent, and mostly forgotten ambient tune by The Orb I Am The Red Worm that was originally issued (in very limited form) on the Badorb label.
All in all this double cd is a nice greatest hits compilation, if one can use the term hits for The Orb, classic tunes would perhaps be more appropriate. Now if only I could find the time to give The Dream a spin.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this as well: Apples and Oranges
The Orb On Mars
Recently The Orb has been remastering, re-editing and most of all re-cashing on their studio albums. Today we have a go at Cydonia. The following review was written for an Orb project of mine that never saw the light of day. and because it is so long I'll keep this intro short.
Cydonia v1 (1998)
After a few false starts in 1998 a new Orb album is announced for March 1999: Cydonia. A track listing is available as well as the names of two possible singles: Once More (in a Jim Cauty 'scourge of the earth' remix) and Ghostdancing. A while later the album is postponed till September, and when that date expires, it is believed to be delayed indefinitely...
That the finished album is lying somewhere in the vaults of the Island record company is a fact. Promotional cd's have been known to circulate among fans and internet record shops advertise a Japanese limited pressing, probably a record of illegitimate origin.
Alex Paterson later explains that the decision not to release Cydonia has been taken over their heads, by Island Records owner Universal. New masters mean new rules and even the once so progressive Island Records can't escape the hit the money and run tactic that seems to be the only marketing plan big third millennium record companies understand nowadays. "One day there'll be just the one label with the one super band, if it goes on like this.", sneers Paterson.
Crying won't help you, baby, and those urging to undergo some Orblike ambient moods have access to two excellent Thomas Fehlmann releases: good fridge. Flowing: ninezer onineight and one to three. Overflow; ninene/nd. The first record has 2 co-operations with Alex Paterson, but these are not among his best. The same can be said of Robert Fripp’s collaboration on the second.
Other millennium rumours go The Orb have been narrowed to a duo. Apparently the ongoing Cydonia story made Andy Hughes leave the building, following the footsteps of early Orbfellas Jim Cauty and Kristian Weston. Some fans speculate that it may have been LX who kicked Andy out because the latter, angry about Island's refusal to release Cydonia, leaked the early mixes to some collectors who weeded the tapes to the public. Alex Paterson: There was a spy in the camp, but we fixed that."
Note: An Orb intimate called Smiley claimed this rumour was not
correct. The Orb has never been over protective anyway for its demos,
and white labels, (unreleased) remixes and copies have always been
circulating between friends, DJ's and collectors. But on the other hand:
we were about to release Cydonia, ( ... ) everyone was saying that
they'd already heard all the new tracks on MP3 websites. So, we were
about to release an album that had already been heard. Needless to say,
that all stopped when Andy left. ( ... ) Well, it's obvious isn't it?
There was a spy in the camp," growls Paterson, "but we fixed that."
(Dreyer, Andrew: Big Noise, 16 November 2001).
A more vicious explanation for the split is Andy's growing interest in booger sugar, but this may have been just another villainous gossip as well. On the other hand, Trash has repeatedly testified about 'coke snorting power hungry money crazed prawn sandwich with black pepper eating scum' circling in and around the band.
Note: a short compilation of Trash's writings about the use of drugs in the band:
"We could get a new manager with a coke habit
And ask him to
take all our money
and spunk it right up his nose", (Trash, LX
in Bklyn two nights ago, e-mail, 1 Nov 2002)
"People like him (Andy Hughes) and others connected with the orb
to squeeze it dry for the money the coke and the birds
music!", (Trash, Nibiru - How to make great handfulls of lovely
dosh!!, e-mail, 6 Nov 2002)
"that bitterness could be something to do with the tracks they (The Orb) stole off me... and the 250,000..and (apparently/allegedly) the gear Andy sold to fuel his coke habit...", (Trash, ???, email, 3 Feb 2003).
To end the Andy on drugs rumours, here is a final statement by Rachel, whose Shrine To The Orb has got the approval of the official Orb website: "I dunno what sort of sordid past there might be, but there's absolutely *No Way* Andy has a coke problem - he's a very dedicated father and AFAIK doesn't even touch weed anymore. He's a very together and down to earth guy." Rachel, Andy Hughes, e-mail, 24 May 2002.
Cydonia v2 (2000)
While a lone wolf howls at alt.music.orb, that gets lesser and lesser messages, Alex spends most of his year 2000 in the good old US of A playing DJ sets at several places. And for a change Cydonia v2 is announced for October 2000, then delayed again...
Cydonia v3 (2001)
Finally, in March 2001, nearly three years after the album has been conceited, a partially revised Cydonia enters an already overcrowded market, its impact that of a dry sponge hitting a gong. The times don’t favour The Orb anymore and almost all reviews give the album a less than average rating.
The new Cydonia is more vocal orientated than was the original plan. With more than two years time to play with the original demos some loop-based instrumentals have nearly become pop songs.
That surely is the case with opener Once More, but I can't testify, before god nor the holy bible, that not experiencing it would have left an inexplicable emptiness in my life. Starting with a typical water sample the music soon clashes with the vocals and maybe that is why Aki Omori sings about a 'sound of confusion'. Don't get me wrong: Once More isn't a bad track, but I would never give it an inch of attention without LX's signature on it.
Note: Once More didn't surprise me as some of The Orb's earlier pop singles. The 7" edit of Perpetual Dawn, for instance, with its added vocal track was, in my opinion, far more effective. So were Toxygene and Little Fluffy Clouds. And even Mickey Mars. Anyway, those who know testify that previous Once More versions were less poppy and with less dominating vocals.
A second, and far superior vocal track, Ghostdancing, sung by Nina Walsh, was obviously destined to become single number two. (Don't search for it the track was never released as a single and that's a pity.) Both of them are linked together by a quasi-seamless interlude Promis. The trilogy forms an ambient suite, taking 18 minutes of time, not too short, but sweet nevertheless.
The title of track 4, Turn It Down, undoubtedly is an easy target for a would-be reviewer. Sounding like an 8 and a half minutes crossover between Orblivion's Passing Of Time and U.F.Orb's Blue Room this ambient experiment with a beat fails to fully contradict its title. One gets the feeling that The Orb already has done this track in the past and with better results.
Egnable is announced in the cd-booklet as a track from the lost FFWD sessions. If you have read the previous Orb reviews you may remember that FFWD was a highly experimental album described by some critics as annoying or irritating. Build around a (fake) Linguaphone commercial read by Fil Le Gonidec, Egnable manages to combine both, quite an achievement if one realises that the tune is less than 2 minutes long. It makes one wonder why on earth this lost session tape was ever found back.
Firestar starts with the familiar sound of a radio cycling between stations. A similar effect was used on the Pink Floyd album Wish You Were Here where Have A Cigar fades out until it sounds like a cheap transistor radio. The track suddenly ends, with new stations being searched (and found) on the wave band. After a snippet of Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, the intro of Wish You Were Here starts. On several live performances during the Seventies, Pink Floyd used a real radio on stage to recreate the 'musique concrete' bit between both tracks.
Note (2008): I haven't got a clue why I couldn't write anything more inspirational about the above track. Probably because there isn't anything more to say about it?
Another Side Of Paradise
A Mile Long Lump Of Lard is a beat bolero, nothing less, nothing more, a truly amazing rhythmical piece, probably the best track on the album, maybe even the best track The Orb has done in ages. Its bombast and pathos reminds this crusty old dinosaur of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer rendition of Prokofiev's Romeo And Juliet and I'm pretty sure nobody would have expected mentioning these boring old farts on an Orb review.
But just when one thinks the action is finally getting somewhere, The Orb & Co decides to have another sing-a-long contest. At their best Centuries and Plum Island sound like a mediocre tune from Grateful Dead goddess Donna Godchaux, at their worst it just sounds like Madonna with a postnatal dip.
There is no Steve Hillage on this album, but a link to times past by is offered by a guest appearance of Guy Pratt who co-signs Hamlet Of Kings. This is one of the very few tracks on this album that intelligently play with samples: flowing water, a harp sound, some tubular bells, a quasi wish-you-were-here guitar lick and the return of the famous Orb train whistle! This track time warps the listener into an atmospheric adventure from the lost Ultraworld.
Note: The thank you section in the cd booklet mentions the couple Guy and Gala. This refers to Guy Pratt who married Gala Wright in October 1996. Gala, born in 1969, is the daughter of Juliette Gale, who was background singer of the London based R&B band Sigma 6. That band would really become famous when a certain Syd Barrett joined and renamed them The Pink Floyd Sound. By then Juliette Gale had already left the troupe but only after she had married the keyboard player Rick Wright.
A remix of Hamlet of Kings will appear a few weeks later on the album Dr Alex Paterson's Voyage Into Paradise. Although the title makes one think that this is a solo record it really is a mixed compilation of 'post club chill out' tracks from the Liquid Sound Design label with Paterson's name glued to it to sell a few copies more.
Note: Orb lovers will find familiar names on Voyage Into Paradise: Youth (M. Glover), Greg Hunter and Trash (K. Weston) are represented on tracks from Kiosk, Dub Trees and a Killing Joke's Requiem remix, the band that more or less started The Orb. For copyright reasons the The Orb is presented as The Rob and The Hamlet Of Kings alternative mix has been retitled to 4 Horseman.
Back to Cydonia. Track eleven is called 1.1.1, with its 35 seconds nothing more than a quick, but quite efficient, intro for Thursday's Keeper. Best described as a sample driven oddity it hits the listener as a crossover between LX's Kiss radio tapes and System 7's 7: 7 Expansion (Conspiracy Mix).
The album ends with Terminus, a typical 'German' minimalist track in the Valley tradition. I don't know if this soundscape was originally destined for the second FFWD album but Robert Fripp surely had his mojo working on this. Although the longest track and highly repetitive, it feels less time-consuming than others on the same album. I personally like the discreet wind chimes that sound exactly like those hanging on my porch (the first time I heard the track I thought it was the wind outside playing tricks with the music).
Note (2008): some early pressings of Cydonia had a hidden track called EDM, the 2008 remastered version includes this as well.
Reading the above can make you wonder if this album is any good.
In a relaxing kind of way, it rather is... and if you take the effort to let the music grow on you it may well become nested in your favourite Orb Top 5. On a total of 68 minutes and 48 seconds...
It has several gems. A Mile Long Lump Of Lard. Hamlet Of Kings. Terminus. Representing twenty-five and a half of excellent Orbian minutes (37%). Orblivion was a more coherent album on the whole, but the gem tracks are all individually better than those on the previous album.
It has its vocal tracks, and two of these are able to haunt the mind for days long: Ghostdancing and Plum Island. The others, Once More and Centuries, are fillers. The 'Orb In Love' invests twenty-one and a half minutes of our time (31%).
It has its transitional parts, typical album tracks that pass with the stream. Promis. Turn It Down. Thursday's Keeper. Some of them are only used as (short) intros to the next track. Firestar. 1.1.1. (29%).
Egnable is ignorable (3%).
Cydonia is probably better than we assume.
Cydonia sings: Once More, Ghostdancing, Centuries, and Plum Island.
Cydonia is ambient: Promis, Hamlet Of Kings, Terminus.
Cydonia is beat: Turn It Down. Thursday's Keeper.
Cydonia is chant: A Mile Lump Of Lard.
Cydonia is a concept: A Martian northern summer in the afternoon. A cold northern winter in Battersea. Et In Arcadia Ego. (These lines can be found on the cd booklet.)
Arcadia Planitia and Cydonia Planitia can be found on the planet Mars. Cydonia (41 north latitude, 10° west longitude) is known for its collossal 'human face' photographed by the Viking spacecraft in the mid-to-late 1970s. The Cydonia area contains other strange objects as well. One of them is a five-sided 'pyramid' and there is an artificial looking rock structure that has been called the 'fortress'. Close to it the 'city' that also contains some pyramidal rock structures. Believers say these artefacts proof that there was once life on Mars, while the non-believers argue that is it all some weird cosmological trickery.
Et In Arcadio Ego is a painting of Giovanni Francesco Guercino (1618). Apparently this was a secret phrase in the esoteric and Masonic societies of those days (Arcadian myths had already been noted down by the Neapolitan poet Jacopo Sannazaro in 1501). A few years later the French painter Nicolas Poussin further elaborated on the theme, titling some of his work Et In Arcadio Ego and Les Bergers d'Arcadie (The Arcadian Shepherds (1629)).
The phrase was the official device of the French Plantard family who claim to descent from the Merovingian king Sigisbert IV (676-758), whose bloodline may go back to the Old Testamentary king David. It is believed that the Plantards have been active in the Templars, the Rosicrusians, in freemasonry and in any other (French) secret organisation you can stick your finger in. Pierre Plantard de Saint Clair became an immediate occult superstar when the authors of an esoteric bestseller wrote he was the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion, the alleged guardians of the Holy Grail. (Baigent, Michael; Leigh, Richard and Lincoln, Henry: The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail, Corgi Books, London, 1982).
69 69 69 69 69 79 79 40
The 2008 version of Cydonia contains the following rare or previously unreleased mixes:
EDM: a hidden track that was previously only available on the (first?) UK release and that is now included on the remastered version.
Centuries (eurofen mix). Previously released on Orbsessions vol.1.
Ghostdancing (version). Instrumental version.
Hamlet of Kings (version).
Firestar (front bits).
Centuries (wine, woman & king mix). Slow and dubby.
Once More (scourge of the earth mix). Previously released on a 12” promo single.
Plum Island (flat mix).
Once More (bedrock edit 2). Previously released as a single.
Turn It Down (long version).
Terminus (andy's mix). Faster version with additional beat and sounds.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: The Orb Lives On
The Orb Lives On
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.
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.
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
Obscured by Fluffy Clouds
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-)))
FAST FORWARD, HE CRIED
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'.
If you liked this post - you might be interested in this one as well: Apples and Oranges
Apples and Oranges
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.
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?
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