The Coronet, London, 14 May 2004
(now defunct), May 2004
Orb have a lot to answer for. In the early 90's they took
mellow, lazy electronic music, added some dub, sounds of
birdsong, church bells and moon landings and a hefty dose
of Pythonesque humour and created a monster known as chill
out, or Ambient House as they used to call it.
been a long time since Dr Alex Patterson and his ever-changing
collective of bandmates reached number one with the UFOrb
album, 12 years in fact, but during that time the good doctor
has maintained a steady, albeit patchy, stream of output
and The Orb's influence on today's dance music scene can
be seen and heard far and wide. Just look at Radio One's
'Blue Room' for starters.
the man who played chess on Top of the Pops (when performing
1992's Blue Room) is joined on stage by Simon Phillips and
John Roome as they indulge in producing a rich audio soup.
The wail of arabic chanting imposes itself in the mix, then
fades in and out among the seeming hundreds of other sounds,
samples and synth stabs, all underpinned with a marching
next tune wafts in but you will certainly not find this
on any chill out compilation. This is something entirely
different. Hard techno plus the added edge of some sonic
feedback makes the crowd move, shake and throw their arms
in the air, the lights flicker and flash through their fingers
and for a while the place looks like a scene from an early
90's warehouse rave. So much for the stereotypical tree-hugging
trippy hippy tag the Orb are often saddled with.
seems to have learned from past mistakes and veers away
from the drawn out, self indulgent yawnathon epics that
threw the Orb off course and decimated their audience when
they were at the height of their popularity, instead opting
for a much tighter set of old classics and shorter, more
focused fresh material.
favourite Outlands introduces itself with its huge dub basslines
quaking the crowds boots and 'don't you bumble, just be
humble' sample burrowing its way into the eardrums. As the
twinkling melody loops round and round, the chunky bouncing
rhythm keeps everyone dancing. Then it's time for another
dip into the past for Little Fluffy Clouds, an ambient anthem
if ever there was, kicking off with a much bigger beat than
usual. The crowd whoop in approval as harmonica flits in
and out of the mix and dawn chorus cockerels call.
heart-melting moment of mellow uplifting loveliness is interrupted
by the unexpected tones of everyone's favourite foul-mouthed
rudeboy rap brat, Eminem. What the hell
is going on? Proving the Orb's sense of humour is still
intact, Eminem momentarily becomes an unlikely ambient superstar
during a Without Me/Toxygene mash-up - and it works surprisingly
the helium tones of Minnie Ripperton's
Lovin' You introduce the immense 'A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating
Brain That Rules From the Centre of the Ultraworld', the
crowd are bathed in white light, a choir and church bells
merge into the tune as the beat drives on and the music
spirals ever upwards giving things an uplifting, almost
spiritual flavour - beautiful.
version of Assassin follows and pounds its way out of the
speakers with clattering drums and some rumbling, body busting
bass and then, all of a sudden it's over. The Orb leave
the stage and that's that. The crowd stir a bit uncomfortably,
a couple nervously shout for more but that seems to be it.
Not the usual premeditated, staged encore just an abrupt
end to a musical, visual spectacular.
old material gets the best reception and is perhaps the
strongest but Dr Alex and co. have tonight proved that they
are still relevant and capable of putting on a jolly good
live show that's more about dancing than spliffed out, horizontal
snoozing. Where would today’s downtempo scene be without
- Ian Roullier, 05/2004