The Orb are currently amidst a 25 year anniversary UK Tour promoting their current retrospective 4 CD box set, History Of The Future – The Island Years.
It seems almost incomprehensible that it’s now 25 years since Alex Paterson took his first giant steps under the banner of The Orb. Caught in the escalating rush of acid house and armed with dream-realising new technology, Alex, and whoever else was on his flight path at the time, started pumping their inherent sense of mischief into panoramic soundscapes with heavyweight beats, taking the live electronic experience to new levels.
A quarter century later, the world is a much different place after technology progressed further, changing the way music was created and heard as the next century got under way. By then, The Orb had already charted a fearlessly wayward course, while unleashing one of the most uncompromisingly innovative bodies of work of the last century, no sound too extreme or source too cheeky.
This is why we’re gathered here today – to mark The Orb’s Silver Jubilee with a collection of landmarks from their first two decades, plus a bunch of extra treats. When Alex took those first, tentative steps 25 years ago he was in the throes of the second revolution to erupt in his life after punk‘s big bang. Acid house opened up a new form of anarchy, using machines before they were changed to protect the innocent. There was always attitude in the Orb’s ambience, as Alex declared more than once, “we’ve got the same attitude as punk rock.”
After Alex and first Orb partner Jimmy Cauty’s initial dalliances in Cornwall, the first major statement under The Orb name was 1989’s A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Universe, among early releases on Alex and Youth’s W.A.U. Mr Modo label.
Tellingly, this set starts with a high definition declaration of dance floor domination with the thunderous Orbital Dance Mix of the track which appeared on July, 1990’s A Huge Ever Growing Remix EP.
This key track in Orb lore appears here in three different incarnations, also including 1991’s Aubrey Mix Mk II ambient version from 1991’s Aubrey Mixes: The Ultra World Excursions, with crashing waves and clucking chickens lashing the pivotal melody. The live version shows how the track could also be cranked into the ultimate, all-going-off set closer. When it provided their 20 minute Peel session in December, 1989, it became the most requested in the show’s history.
The follow-up, Little Fluffy Clouds, (which started life in Alex’s bedroom at the infamous Coach House he was then sharing with Youth), was created at that magical time when sampling technology offered new oceans of possibilities (which turned into a Pandora‘s Box of litigation as claims rained in after these first innocent flurries of exploration).
1990’s Little Fluffy Clouds kicked off with English country narrative from Face The Facts presenter John Waite before the famous Rickie Lee Jones promo interview snippet which came with her Flying Cowboys album. Demonstrating the unlikely sources which separated the genuinely creative from mindless plagiarism, the beats hail from a Harry Nilsson track, introduced by Ennio Morricone harmonica. Coldcut, who’d been developing their own strain of underground sonic science, are here with their aptly-titled Heavyweight Dub Mix.
Next single from 1991’s Adventures Beyond The Ultra World was psychedelic reggae outing Perpetual Dawn, here heard in its Solar Youth version and the first of Andrew Weatherall’s cataclysmic pair of Ultrabass remixes, underpinned by Jah Wobble‘s chest-rattling bass.
Blue Room itself is a stratospheric epic with long-time mucker Steve Hillage’s ether-surfing guitar, Miquette Giraudy’s ghostly synths plus sirens, NASA astronauts and disemboided vocal, again underpinned by Jah Wobble’s inimitable Earth’s core-shaking basslines.
Clocking in at a second below the 40 minute limit imposed by chart compilers Gallop, Blue Room was released as a twelve-inch single on June 8, reaching number eight as the longest single to make the charts. It’s here in three versions – the single edit, live and Excerpt 605 on the rarities disc.
U.F. Orb was unveiled to the media at London’s Planetarium. It came as a shocked but air-punching triumph when the album invaded the charts at number one. It continues its mighty presence on this collection with Majestic and Close Encounters appearing in disc two’s remixes.
Close Encounters showed how The Orb could deliver floor-destroying techno, working with Glasgow titans Stuart MacMillan and Orde Meikle, aka Slam, who‘d recently started their Soma label while running the raging inferno of their Slam club. If the original version was dominated by the astonishingly crowd-levitating groove, disc two’s ambient version brings out myriad other subtleties.
Disc three captures the sonic splendour of the live Orb show around this time, drawn from Trekkoner, Copenhagen and Woodstock 2 in 1993-94, hotwiring singles and album highlights with the spontaneous combustion of the duo‘s live mixing, which meant every gig was different. They were also playing a song called Assassin – 1992’s next single. Originally a fluid slab of astral funk draped in radioactive sonic worms, it became a prime example of an Orb piece spreading its wings live in various directions, appearing here as single edit and in two different live incarnations.
1993 saw angry grey streaks appearing in the little fluffy clouds, manifesting as the dark side of The Orb in mid-1994’s abrasive Pomme Fritz (The Orb’s Little Album), fired by rekindled punk spirit with anger often the energy.
Released in July 1994, Pomme Fritz sparked hostility everywhere from record company to press, although it still made number six in the UK charts (though not this set!).
With slate wiped clean, The Orb could move on and make their under-rated masterpiece Orbus Terrarum. This double-album epic of astonishing complexity, breadth and depth continued Alex’s exploring of a, “collage of noises that had never been heard before in that sort of music”, venturing into avant garde, musique concrete and classical realms, shot with the wildest dub.
With bassist Simon Phillips and percussionist Nick Burton also still around, The Orb set off on the album’s orchestral dub voyages, including the supremely evocative Oxbow Lakes, here in its album version.
Alex could now reflect on “two years of pretty hard labour” which had seen everything change, including record company, management and musical collaborators. There was still pressure to set their controls for the heart of the charts as Orbus Terrarum had just scraped the top 20 while there hadn’t been a huge single, so it came as another surprise when Toxygene reached number four in the singles chart in February, 1997; The Orb’s highest placed single yet. As a result, mothership album Orblivion sold well too.
The hit came with a beautiful slice of Orb-lore. During the ‘90s, The Orb trotted out remixes for a galaxy of artists, from Primal Scream to Robbie Williams, even a U2 knock-back, as Alex stuck to his motto, “you get an Orb track with bits of song on it.” Jean Michel Jarre’s 1977 hit Oxygene was a hugely-influential electronic landmark. To celebrate its 20 year anniversary, the French composer had created a sequel called Oxygene 7-13, The Orb were called to remix Oxygene 8. The composer was not too pleased remarking, “It’s not that I didn’t like it, but I wanted the first wave of remixes to be linked with Oxygene’s theme and textures.’ Alex simply took his remix, retitled it ‘Toxygene’ [after being out-voted on ‘Toxic Genes’] and released it as first single from the album it had just found a home in, a hit in its own right. The single was released in a pink box containing two CDs with mixes inclusing Ganja Kru’s drum ’n’ bass workout (included here).
Orblivion featured a more streamlined Orb with Alex, Thomas and Andy, plus Steve Hillage, Miquette Girady and tour DJ Lewis Keogh. The object of the exercise this time seems to be how much fun they can have bending melodies and beats into new dimensions. After the ambient exploits of the previous two albums, the vibe around Orblivion was that The Orb were back in a funky mood, without trying to lead or start new trends because they’d already done that.
Next single was Asylum, a pulsing electro beast co-written with tour DJ Lewis Keogh, riding a gently squelching riff draped in lazy steel guitar and Detroit techno melody. The track is here in its album version.
After the unfettered creativity of the Orblivion phase and top five success of the single, darker clouds were again gathering again towards the end of the century. Although recorded through 1999, the delightfully multi-hued Cydonia got caught up in internal record label reshufflings, meaning it wasn’t released until 2000. Named after the area of Mars where the Viking space craft photographed a Sphinx-like face, Cydonia remains one of the most diverse and overlooked items in the Orb arsenal.
The core team of Alex, Andy Hughes, Thomas Fehlmann, Simon Phillips and Nick Burton was joined by Fil de Gonidec [another old Killing Joke mucker], Sabrettes’ Nina Walsh and Freaky Realistic singer Aki Omori, who unleashed her sepulchral vocals on a traditional Vietnamese melody for first single, Once More.
Meanwhile, Nina co-wrote and sang some of Alex‘s old lyrics on second single Ghostdancing, whose lustrous, hallucino-sheened future pop inevitably incurred flak for daring to venture near traditional song forms. This was easily dismissed by Alex: “This may be but they were ORB pop songs,“ while adding that, “Ghostdancing is probably one of the best Orb tunes we’ve ever done.” Disc two features the spectral textures of Mark Pritchard’s sumptuously deep remix.
There we have it: all aspects of the Orb in one boxset: the singles which took them to mass success, remixes which kept the underground happy, the kind of live show which blazed a trail for others to take dance music to the stadiums, plus some of the amazing videos which accompanied most of the singles assembled here.
The Orb – History Of The Future: The Island Years
Disc One – The Singles Collection
Disc One – The Singles Collection
01: A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre of the Ultraworld: Loving You – Orbital Dance mix (Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty)
02: Little Fluffy Clouds Single version
03: Perpetual Dawn, Solar Youth mix
04: Blue Room, 7” version
05: Assassin, 7” version (Alex Paterson, Kris Weston and & DJ Lewis)
06: Oxbow Lakes, Album version
07: Asylum, Album version
08: Toxygene, Album version
09: Once More, Album version
10: Ghost Dancing, Album version
Disc Two – Remixes and Rarities
01: A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre of the Ultraworld: Loving You Aubrey Mix Mk II (Alex Paterson and Jimmy Cauty )
02: Little Fluffy Clouds, Coldcut Heavyweight Dub mix
03: Perpetual Dawn, Andrew Weatherall Ultrabass 1 mix
04: Blue Room, Excerpt 605
05: Majestic, Heavy Mix (The Orb and Youth)
06: Close Encounters, Smile, You’re On Camera mix (The Orb and Slam)
07: Assassin, Another Live mix
08: Toxygene, Ganja Kru mix
09: Once More, Mark Pritchard mix
Disc Three – Live In Copenhagen & Woodstock
01: Towers of Dub, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
02: Little Fluffy Clouds, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
03: Blue Room, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
04: Star 6 & 7 8 9, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
05: Valley, Live @ Trekkoner Sunset Gig, Copenhagen ‘93
06: Assassin, Live at Woodstock 2, USA ‘94
Disc Four – DVD
01: Little Fluffy Clouds, Promotional video
02: Perpetual Dawn, Promotional video
03: Assassin, Promotional video
04: Oxbow Lakes, Promotional video
05: Pomme Fritz, Promotional video
06: Toxygene, Promotional video
07: DJ Asylum, Promotional video
08: Once More, Promotional video
09: Blue Room, Top Of The Pops ‘92
10: Toxygene, Top Of The Pops ‘97
11: Little Fluffy Clouds, Live from T In The Park
12: Perpetual Dawn, 10” TV advert
The Orb – 25 Anniversary UK Tour Dates
6th Nov Gloucester, Guildhall
8th Nov Bridport, Electric Palace
9th Nov Nottingham, Marcus Garvey Centre
10th Nov Holmfirth, Picturedrome
13th Nov Exeter, Pheonix
14th Nov Bournemouth, Old Firestation
15th Nov Hebden Bridge, Traders
16th Nov Dublin, Button Factory
17th Nov Buckley, Tivoli Venue
24th Nov Cambridge, Corn Exchange
The Velvet Underground was the most inspirational group of all-time. More so than The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and The Sex Pistols. A bold statement to make, but there you go, I’ve said it!
Imagine stumbling across The Velvet Underground playing in a New York club in 1966 accompanied by an Andy Warhol lightshow and provocative dancers Gerard Malanga and Edie Sedgwick. The Exploding Plastic Inevitable was like no other art / music collaboration. Art and film collided with a wall of ear-piercing feedback and noise, often ad-hoc, unrehearsed. While The Beatles were singing about love and The Beach Boys were singing about surfin’ and girls, The Velvet Underground sang about the darkest of underground themes – drugs, sado-masochism and death.
The Velvet Underground was made complete by a coming together of separate forces. The non-conformity and space the music created allowed Lou Reed, John Cale and Sterling Morrison to experiment and bring individual ideas to an uncompromising table, while Mo Tucker kept a constant beat and Lou Reed delivered a poetic New York conversational vocal.
Andy Warhol introduced Nico to the group and together they recorded one of the most inspirational, seminal and classic albums of all-time; possibly the best ever debut album. Commonly known as ‘the banana album’ for its Warhol cover of (originally) a peelable banana, The Velvet Underground & Nico was recorded in 1966 and released in 1967. The album opens with the beautiful and serene pop song, ‘Sunday Morning’ produced by Bob Dylan’s producer, Tom Wilson. The rest of the album, was “produced” by Andy Warhol and takes the listener on a journey through the depths of depravity, the scum and wasters normally hidden in the shadows, drug addiction and sexual deviation. The music is at times soft and welcoming, and at others, the most shocking, absorbing and purposely difficult noise ever recorded.
I was introduced to The Velvet Underground in the late 1970s when they were regularly referenced as a major influence by many contemporary groups of the post-punk movement. But nothing prepared me for the screeching noise of ‘Venus In Furs’, the middle eight feedback in ‘Run Run Run’, and most of all ‘Heroin’ – one of the most important songs ever produced.
Listening to ‘Heroin’ very loud still gives me goose bumps and fills my body with an unexplainable tingling. It takes me on a trip every time. I feel the up and down nature of the rollercoaster rush and calm, rush and calm, eventually exploding in a crescendo of noise and beauty. No other song has this effect on me. Nothing comes close. The energy. The noise. This song is about shooting up heroin and was released in 1967 for fuck sake!
After two great albums, John Cale left The Velvet Underground, and with it went the avant-garde experimentation. The Velvet Underground, to all intent and purpose, became a backing band for Lou Reed. Though I love the latter two studio albums (‘The Velvet Underground’ 1969 and ‘Loaded’ 1970) the songs are soft rock / pop songs devoid of any confrontation, experimental fragments or noise – the three components that make the first two albums (‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ 1967 and ‘White Light White Heat’ 1968) so absorbing, appealing and original.
Lou Reed eventually left The Velvet Underground to pursue a solo career, and in 1972 he was responsible for another classic album. ‘Transformer’ (1972) is one of my favourite albums of all-time and is rich with perfect pop songs like ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, ‘Perfect Day’ ‘Vicious’ and ‘Satellite Of Love’.
It’s true that Lou Reed was a massive influence on thousands of aspiring musicians from the mid-1960s to present day. But that was as part of The Velvet Underground. A couple of weeks ago I had a great conversation with a work colleague. We share a love of The Velvet Underground but both agreed Lou Reed’s solo albums, ‘Transformer’ aside, are best described as poor at best. I was intrigued to hear ‘Metal Machine Music’ (1975) but have no reason to return for a second listen. Other albums such as ‘New York’ (1989) and ‘Songs for Drella (1990) with John Cale, may well be other people’s cup of tea; as are ‘Berlin’ (1973) and ‘Coney Island Baby’ (1975). For this, I believe, possibly controversially at this moment in time, that Lou Reed was much over-rated as an artist. But I thank him for giving me The Velvet Underground and Transformer; and for that I will never forget. Rest in peace Lou.
Originally broadcast in 1986 in the UK, The South Bank Show’s Velvet Underground documentary contains interviews with Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker, Nico, Andy Warhol and lots of early Velvet performance footage.
As I sit with a half-written classic album review of Stations of the Crass on my laptop I am asked to review the forthcoming album by Irish punk bandParanoid Visions called ‘When…?’ on Overground Records.
In 1979 I was an impressionable 14 year-old whose whole life revolved around music. Kid Jensen & John Peel helped broaden my tastes and introduce me to the new exciting sounds of post-punk and reggae. The first wave of UK punk had fizzled away with the demise of The Sex Pistols and the death of Sid Vicious; and by 1979 had become a dirty word in many quarters as it was superseded by more ‘serious’ experimenting and fusing of post-punk and New Wave bands that pushed at boundaries and burning fences. What emerged in 1979 was the formation of what became known as the ‘second wave of punk’. This had more to do with the D-I-Y culture and fashion than any tenuous musical links to the likes of The Sex Pistols & The Clash.
While I indulged myself with the likes of Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, Bauhaus and Scritti Politti, I was introduced to a group that sounded totally original with its aggressive force and dirty sounding distorted guitar sound that was as hard and powerful as anything I had ever heard. When Crass released The Feeding Of The 5,000 12” EP on Small Wonder Records they changed the goalposts musically, and had a profound effect on this teenagers political awareness. They also sold more records that year in the UK than AC/DC, apparently.
In 1979 a 13 year old from Dublin named Peter was impressed to receive a response to his letter from Crass. The letter not only answered his questions but included badges, leaflets and…. a recipe for making bread! The letter was signed by no less than main vocalist, Steve Ignorant.
Paranoid Visions were formed in 1982. They ran their own record label,F.O.A.D. (Fuck Off And Die), based in Dublin and in 1987, the band started the FOAD2U2 campaign (Fuck off and die to U2). In 2010 while supporting Steve Ignorant on a few dates while he toured the UK performing Crass songs, the band approached Ignorant to sing on a track for their forthcoming album, ‘Escape From The Austerity Complex’. Pleased with the outcome they both agreed to record an album together. The result is ‘When…?’ which is set for release on 11th November.
Paranoid Visions take inspiration and sound from the early 1980s anarcho punk movement spearheaded by Crass. I can hear a hybrid punk sound from the likes of Flux Of Pink Indians and Conflict and the streetwise rock n roll of the likes of the UK Subs and Sham 69. ‘When…?’ is a well rounded, powerful album packed with loud punk protest songs and a professional sounding production to boot. The title track starts and ends the album and, along with “Join The Dots” captures the very best of the music and the collaboration between Paranoid Visions and Steve Ignorant as anarcho punk royalty.
To celebrate its release Steve Ignorant will join the band to perform the album in its entirety at the Boston Arms, London on Saturday 9th November supported by former Crass recording artists Zounds & The Cravats.
In 2002 a group of teenagers formed The Arctic Monkeys in a suburb of Sheffield and played their first gig on 13 June 2003 at The Grapes in the city centre. Before releasing a single record the band had gathered quite a following and made a bit of a stir by offering their music for free across the Internet. The band had recorded some songs themselves and began giving away free CDs at gigs. In turn, the songs were shared across the Internet via free file sharing sites. In fact, they were one of the first bands to proactively use file sharing and social media to raise their profile, and in doing so had record companies clambering over each other to sign the band.
After releasing a debut single limited pressing of 500 CD’s & 1,000 7” singles on their own Bang Bang label, they decided to sign to the independent label, Domino Records, a small independent label run by Laurence Bell from his flat, who apparently only signed artists he liked!
In 2005 the Arctic Monkeys released their first single on Domino Records on 17 October 2005 and it went straight to No. 1 in the UK singles chart. “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”was a manic slice of energetic youth, lyrically amusing and showed The Arctic Monkeys were worth every column inch of hype they were currently receiving.
I still remember their first appearance on Later with Jools Holland as they performed “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” and “When The Sun Goes Down”, probably the best two songs from their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.
Since then they have lost the acne, released five studio albums and become one of the biggest indie rock groups in the UK with no less than two main stage headline appearances at Glastonbury.
Following the release of this year’s fifth studio album, AM, the Arctic Monkeys are once again embarking on an arena tour. Buying Arctic Monkey tickets isn’t always the easiest thing to do these days as the band is as popular as ever. But there are currently a few tickets still available for the UK shows including a homecoming concert at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield on Saturday 2nd November, before they fly off for sold out shows in Spain and Italy.
Arctic Monkeys 2013 UK Arena Tour Dates
Tuesday 22nd October
Metro Radio Arena, Newcastle Upon Tyne
With the selection of Bruno Mars to perform at Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show in New York, the NFL open the possibility to new groups in one the most important sporting event in the world.
The first halftime shows were nothing fancy with college football bands playing and marching, by the way; it’s a good thing to stay informed on the NCAA college football because it gives you a glimpse on the future talents to arrive to the NFL.
Moving on, it was until 1991, with the New Kids on the block, when Super Bowl began to schedule famous artists.
However, after 2004 incident with Janet Jackson wardrobe controversy, the league selected long-established acts like Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones, The Who and Madonna. Even the most recent halftime artist, Beyoncé, has been a star since the late 1990s.
Bruno Mars, whose first album was released in 2010, could be the beginning of a new era of halftime shows. Classic bands are ok, but fans are waiting to see something different and the possibility would be bigger if the game is played outside United States.
After some years of playing a regular season game in Wembley Stadium, Chris Parsons, NFL’s senior vice president of international games, said that the fan base in United Kingdom is now more than 2 million, and there’s a future possibility of expanding the league to this part of Europe.
Two years ago, there was a rumor that league officials were considering holding the Super Bowl L in London. Having the NFL championship game in England will be the opportunity that local bands have been waiting for.
The Summer Olympics closing ceremony was one of the best in recent years, thanks to an exciting selection of English songs from various eras. Can you imagine Muse, Coldplay or the Artic Monkeys playing at halftime?
A survey revealed that Paul McCartney (2005) and The Rolling Stones (2006) are in the Top Ten halftime shows of all time, so why not give a chance to a British band?
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