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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 Paul McCartney? 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
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
It took me over a year to listen to The Dream that followed Okie
Dokie and although it has Youth (Martin Glover) 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 is 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…
Update 2010: as the Metallic
Spheres collaboration album came out in 2010, the above article was
a tad too pessimistic. For a (partial) review, check here: The
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.
The nazi dark side of the moon conspiration
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 readThe
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
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
but they also tested anti-gravity
engines in earth-designed flying saucers and solved the so-called zero-point
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,
"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
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
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.
Last year, in the aftermath of the Chicago single, Alex Paterson of the
ambient house band The
Orb made a strange announcement:
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) and 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/or 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.
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.
There was a time when I would put in the latest Orb CD and murmur
blimey! Blimey because The
Orb pleasantly surprised me or blimey because Alex
'LX' Paterson and band utterly frustrated me. They had that effect
on me for years from their very first album Adventures
Beyond The Ultraworld (1991) until the quite underrated Cydonia
(2001). Often the wow! and meh! impression 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 has largely disappeared. His most prolific output lays
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.
Contrary to a stubborn belief the so-called ambient (and illegal) Pink
Floyd remix albums from the Nineties are 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".
Update 2015 01 15: Parts of The Big Spliff may have appeared on
the latest Pink Floyd album: The Endless River. See our review: While
my guitar gently weeps...
Exactly one year ago Alex Paterson, who has always been a bit of a
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
But that news was hurriedly demoted by David Gilmour.
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.
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
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
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
Calling LX Paterson an Orb co-founder is technically not untrue, but it
feels a little weird when you have just been presenting Martin 'Youth'
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 but not by Youth who only occasionally teamed up with
Alex Paterson as a temporary aid. 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 'Youth' Glover helped LX
out with two tracks (on two separate albums): Little Fluffy Clouds (on
'Adventures', 1991) and Majestic (on U.F.Orb, 1992), but he never was a
member of the band and certainly not a founding member. In 2007 however,
Youth replaced Thomas Fehlmann and joined The Orb for a one album
Update 2018: Youth can also be found on the 2018 'No Sounds Are
Out Of Bounds' and on a 2016 live CD and DVD release of the band.
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.
The first, original movie disappears after a couple of days for
so-called 'copyright' reasons and is rapidly replaced with a second
version (unfortunately taken down as well, now), 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 doesn't go down
well at the Gilmour camp. Alex Paterson's image, so it seems, has only
been included on the promo video after some pressure (from LX
himself) took 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 Orb for over two decades.
Bit by bit we learn 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 (read some more about that on: Metallic
Spheres). Because of this he faces extradition from England to the
USA where apparently they take these kind of idiots very seriously, see
also the 43rd president who governed the country from 2001 to 2009.
It is not 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
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 some help. LX flavoured the pieces with typical
Orbian drones and samples, rather than turning 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. That can only be 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. (In the case of their Okie
Dokie album, not a bit).
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 meh! 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 have 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.
In true Orbian tradition this album exists in different versions. There
is the regular UK version (with a 'black' cover) and the deluxe version
(with a 'white' cover). That last one has a bonus CD in a 3D60 headphone
remix, comparable to the holophonics system on Pink Floyd's 'The
Final Cut' album from 1983.
Update 2018: Just like 'holophonics' in the eighties, 3D60 no
longer exists. The 'special' effects can only be heard through a
headphone, but don't expect anything spectacular.
A Japanese enhanced Blu-spec release has two additional bonus tracks and
two videos. One of these extra tracks (remixes, actually) could also be
downloaded from The Orb website and from iTunes. One of the videos has
been made by Stylorouge, who worked with Storm Thorgerson on
several Floydian projects.
Last but not least there is a Columbia promo version, containing a
unique identification number to trace unauthorised redistribution (see
above picture). To our, but probably not to Gilmour's, amusement this
promo-CD is titled The Orb Vs Dave Gilmour (instead of David).
According to at least one Orb fan this version has a different mix than
the official release.