This editorial is dedicated to putting the spotlight on artists who create amazing music but always seem to fly under the radar for most dance music lovers. With so much great talent nowadays it's easy to miss out on the many musicians who may not appear on the mainstage but always deliver a headliner performance. This week, Under The Radar embarks on a sonic journey with ambient masterminds, The Orb.
I'm frequently surprised at how many dance music heads haven't heard of The Orb. Founded in 1988 by Alex Paterson, and accompanied by numerous partners throughout the project's 30 year (and counting) lifespan, The Orb have gained a reputation as the kings of ambient house and one of the greatest “comedown” acts of all time. They're an absolute staple of electronica, where not knowing them is the equivalent of a rock fanatic never listening to The Doors. While they rarely make appearences in the festival circuit, the Orb has continued to release top quality downtempo and in recent years have collaborated with huge names such as Lee “Scratch” Perry and the late, great, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd. Their most recent effort though, contains no big cameos and winds the clock back to their original sound that brought them into the spotlight, giving plenty to love for longtime followers as well as reestablishing themselves as the premier ambient act currently active in the music industry.
Moonbuilding 2703 A.D. is a 4 track journey, with each tune averaging over 10 minutes in length, leaving the dubby, glitchy themes that embodied the groups recent releases and diving back into the undercurrent of deep, sci-fi, introspection. Each track places atmosphere above rhythm and starts off minimally, introducing one trippy synth after another, with some virtuostic sound manipulation to create undeniable immersion that leads brilliantly and subtedly into their groovy drops. It's a formula that's worked for their classic tracks such as “Little Fluffy Clouds” or “Towers Of Dub” and its fantastic to hear it done so well and still be so effective. Due to each song's extensive length, it allows the listener to undergo much more dramatic journeys aiding the near seemless flow from one track to the next.
Each tune manages to retain its own traits and themes, keeping the record from sounding too repetitive. The opening, “God's Mirrorball” lifts off with eerie, industrial beats, then fades into the “Moonscapes 2703” and its trippy, tribal sounds. Following is “Lunar Caves”, perhaps the best example of their interstellar ambiance that could serve as a soundscape for a Kubrick film, then culminating with the title track “Moonbuilding 2703” which quickly throws you into its trip hop, space funk, swaggy beat that is perhaps the most memorable piece on the album.
The Orb's popularity peaked in the early 90s with the back to back releases of The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and U.F.Orb albums, both regarded as the groups magnum opuses and essential albums in electronic music history. Moonbuilding 2703 A.D. is hands down their best album since. A fantastic display of production, smart song design, and thought provoking, extra terrestrial chillness that is often under appreciated by the overblown nature of today's modern dance culture. Orb fans will love it, and for anyone else it's a great way to get familiar with these living legends.
- Moonbuilding 2703 AD