Friday, June 29, 2007

THE ORB: Orbsessions Vol. 2 (Maliscious Damage Records)

THE ORB
Orbsessions Vol. 2
MD624
Maliscious Damage Records 2007
11 Tracks. 76mins01secs




Buy it: CD | LP
The Orb | Maliscious Damage Records

The first installment in what is announced as a trilogy, delivered two years ago, delved deep into the Orb’s sonic archive, and provided, in the process, the beginning of a thread throughout the band’s career, seemingly marking various stages and incarnations of one of the most emblematic British acts to have emerged from the dance scene of the late eighties.

The Orb shot to fame during the rave revolution with the epic A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld and the seminal Little Fluffy Clouds, and rapidly became a major act alongside the likes of Orbital, 808 State and Banco De Gaia. Formed by Dr. Alex Paterson and KLF/JAMMS maverick Jimmy Cauty, the band has been through many personnel changes during its near twenty years of activity, Swiss musician Thomas Fehlmann being, alongside Paterson, the only remaining active member.

Subtitled ‘Finest Quality For The Connoisseur’, Orbsessions Vol. 2 collects another eleven previously unreleased tracks. While the first volume sounded at times slightly disparate, this second chapter appears like a much more cohesive piece. The sonic characteristics of the band are present all the way through, from deep rumbling dub effects to extensive sample use, but there is no trace of the band’s poppier tone of the early 2000s or the infectious minimalism of recent years. This album presents The Orb at their most elaborate and ornate, with contributions from Fehlmann, Andy Hughes, Hans Joachim Roedelius, vin100 and legendary producer Youth alongside Paterson,

Orbsessions Vol. 2 opens with the somewhat dark and haunting tones of D.A.D.O.E.S? Dense clouds of noise and echoes swallow any melodic attempt, while muted vocal samples and Berber chants punctuate the piece at regular intervals. Ralph’s Cupboard follows a much more familiar sound pattern as a melody circles above a hypnotic dub groove and intricate sound formations. From there on, the remaining tracks are set between these two points. 2026 is a stunning piece of progressive ambient that sparkles with hypnotic elegance, while It’s A Small World is a refined slice of bouncy electronic music in the great Orb tradition. Shem, with its vast soundscapes and beat-less facade, sits at the more experimental end of the spectrum, whereas Shem Version, which follows, feeds on a very similar drum pattern as Massive Attack’s Inertia Creeps, with which it also shares some of its dark oppressing atmospherics.

Later, Ba’albeck sounds like Perpetual Dawn given the Toxygene treatment. There is little more than a mechanical groove, at times supported by tabla and an occasional ‘ooo-ooo’ to keep the mind occupied, but its relentless drive is enough to keep it afloat. Jam On Your Honey shows similar characteristics, but feels even funkier and more playful.

It is something of a mystery why some of these tracks have remained until now unreleased. Spanning an undetermined period, although the overall sound seem to indicate that most of these date from the mid to late-nineties, there is an interesting sonic consistency throughout. Very much like its predecessor, Orbsessions Vol. 2 fills some gaps in the band’s work, but the selection is much more consistent here. While a new album is announced for later this summer, this second collection is a superb testament of the creative cauldron that The Orb continue to be.

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