The Orb (live)
Alex Paterson (The Orb), Yoshiki (Runch, op.disc), DJ Sodeyama (ARCHIPEL, NO:MORE REC)
Saloon: Timothy Really Lab - Ryujiro Tamaki, tosi, y., kon, Sisi, Ngtom
The Orb virtually invented the electronic genre known as ambient house, resurrecting slower, more soulful rhythms and providing a soundtrack for early-morning ravers. The group popularized the genre as well, by appearing on the British chart show Top of the Pops and hitting number one in the U.K. with the 1992 album U.F.Orb. Frontman Dr. Alex Paterson's formula was quite simple: he slowed down the rhythms of classic Chicago house and added synthwork, obscure vocal samples and effects inspired by '70s ambient pioneers Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream.
Paterson had worked as a roadie for Killing Joke during the '80s, and began to be influenced by the explosion of Chicago house music in England during the mid-to-late '80s. He joined the A&R department of EG Records - the home of Brian Eno himself - and first recorded as the Orb with Jimi Cauty (who had played in the Killing Joke side project Brilliant and later gained fame as one half of the KLF).
In May 1989, Paterson begun to DJ in London around this time, and Paul Oakenfold recruited him to man Land of Oz, the chill-out room at his club Heaven. The Dr.’s ambient sets incorporated a wide array of samples and sound effects, ranging from BBC nature recordings to NASA space broadcasts and special effects. Those samples were mixed underneath the music of ambient pioneers such as Eno and Steve Hillage. Hillage happened to be in the room one night when Paterson sampled his Rainbow Dome Musick album. The two became friends and later recorded together, Hillage contributing guitar to the Orb's Blue Room single (also featuring a towering bassline from Public Image Ltd ((PIL)) bassist Jah Wobble) and Paterson working on the debut album by Hillage's lauded dance outfit System 7.
The Orb's first actual foray into ambient house appeared in October 1989. The 22-minute single A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From the Centre of the Ultraworld, which sampled ocean noises and Minnie Riperton's Loving You actually hit the U.K. charts that year. The single became popular with indie kids as well as club DJs, and earned Paterson and Cauty a John Peel Session in December 1989.
Erasure, Depeche Mode, Yello, Primal Scream, and more than 20 other bands received the Orb remix treatment around this period, before Paterson began to cut back his remixing work in 1992. (One of the only outside remixes of Orb material occurred around this time when breakbeat pioneers Coldcut remixed the Kiss EP for a U.S. only single.)
Alex Paterson and Jimi Cauty had been recording an album during the turn of 1989-1990, but the two split in April 1990 - a result of Paterson's fear that the Orb had become known more as a KLF side project than an original act. In the meantime, Alex Paterson had been working with Youth (from Killing Joke) on the new track Little Fluffy Clouds, with a melody incorporated from composer Steve Reich. The single appeared in November 1990, sparking the wrath of the sampled Rickie Lee Jones, whose dialogue with Levar Burton from the PBS-TV children's program Reading Rainbow was sampled for the chorus and title of the track. Their label Big Life later settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Though the single failed to place in the charts, its laid-back vibe made it a big hit on the dancefloor.
Youth's other commitments meant Paterson decided to recruit Kris Weston (nicknamed Thrash for his punk/metal roots), a young studio engineer who had recently left his previous band, Fortran 5. The Orb performed live for the first time just after the pairing, early in 1991 at London's Town & Country 2 with Steve Hillage on guitar. The group's live dates soon became their forte, breaking down the boundaries which had previously separated electronic music from rock. An Orb show encompassed the best elements of performance hall and club, with colourful light shows and visuals.
In April 1991, The Orb’s debut album Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld was released in England to considerable critical
acclaim and a place in the UK Top 30 LP charts. Paterson and Thrash toured Europe during 1991, and compiled two Peel Sessions in November 1991. One month later, the duo released The Aubrey Mixes as a Christmas special. The album, a remix compilation with reworkings by Steve Hillage, Youth, and Jimi Cauty was deleted on the day of its release, but still managed to place in the U.K. Top 50.
In June 1992, the new single Blue Room hit the British Top Ten. The longest single in chart history at just under 40 minutes, it earned the Orb a spot on Top of the Pops, where they ruminated over a chess game and waved at the camera while a three-minute edit of the single played in the background. Released in July, the album U.F.Orb concentrated not on space, but the beings that inhabit it. It hit number one on the British album charts, and also did well with critics. The non-album single Assassin - originally slated to feature vocals from Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie followed in October, and reached number 12 in the British charts.
Paterson signed an international deal with Island in 1993 and released the stopgap Live 93 album later that year. The Orb's first studio release for Island appeared in June 1994: Pomme Fritz (a ‘little album’) was quite a departure from ambient house. It had a schizophrenic quality moving between the pastoral ambience of the first two albums, and the harsher, almost industrial, rhythms which the Orb were pushing forward. Pomme Fritz made number six on the British charts but critics hated it, charging that Paterson had finally disappeared up his own arse.
By early 1995, Weston finally left the Orb to devote time to his own projects. Before the duo separated, however, they teamed for the Orb's most famous live appearance on a rave bill at Woodstock 2 with Orbital, Aphex Twin, and Deee-Lite.
Taking up the slack from Weston's departure was Thomas Fehlmann. The Orb had previously remixed a single from his (equally seminal 90 dance act) Sun Electric project, and most of Pomme Fritz was recorded at his Berlin studios.
Finally, almost three years after U.F.Orb, the new and improved group released the Orb's third studio LP, Orbus Terrarum. After the release of a double-disc remix compilation, the Orb returned to the great beyond with the spacey sounds of 1997's Orblivion. The retrospective U.F.Off followed in 1998, and though Paterson and co. finished their fifth studio effort Cydonia soon after, Island delayed its release until the new millennium.
A shift in labels was in order so 2004's Bicycles & Tricycles found the Orb on Sanctuary. Working their next label change into the album title, Okie Dokie It's the Orb on Kompakt appeared at the end of 2005, as did the rarities compilation Orb Sessions, Vol. 1, which was released by the Killing Joke associated label Malicious Damage. Most recently The Orb performed ‘Orbular Bells’ a unique DJ set at the O2 in homage to Mike Oldfield.