It’s indisputable, the man has made his mark. It’s more than a decade on from when Alex Paterson – the constant throughout the ever-fluctuating line-up of chill-out dinosaurs The Orb – birthed the genre of ambient house with the trippy proto-electronica of ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’. The slack-jawed ethos of the chill-out room, however, lives on in the darkend corners
of clubs worldwide.
After a four-year hibernation, The Orb – now Paterson, and long-time cohorts Thomas Fehlmann and Simon Phillips – return with their sixth album, ‘Cydonia’. The fact that Island have sat on it for a good 18 months doesn’t bode especially well. But that’s not the half of it; ‘Cydonia’ is a stillborn relic, flawed throughout by chronically stunted ambitions.
Where once The Orb magicked up the splendidly out-there ‘Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld’, they now bring us the twisted, foggy ambience of – wait for it – ‘Mile Long Lump Of Lard’. Mmmm. Is it 1992 again? Can you feel that dub bass (‘Promis’)? Are you digging that trickle of running water (‘Hamlet Of Kings’)? Have you ever heard a vintage BBC continuity announcer sampled on a dance record before (‘Ednable’)? Chilled out yet? Or just really, really bored?
The problem isn’t simply that other musicians have improved, refined, and superseded Paterson’s original vision – although that’s certainly a factor. The truth is, since the ‘halcyon days’ of acid house that all these tedious old clubbers keep reminding us of, the Great British Comedown has changed beyond all recognition. Long gone are the days when a spliff, a lava lamp, and ‘Blue Room’ did the trick. Now, a whole quietly-booming industry caters to the post-club gurners; where [I]4 Later[/I], PlayStation 2, [I]Blue Jam[/I], and [I]Gladiator[/I] DVDs vie maniacally for attention through the chemical haze.
Given that, ‘Cydonia’ is simply far too
little, far too late.
Rumours persist that this is the last Orb album. About time. Let this be a cautionary tale that dance music now is subject to the same nostalgia that’s long crippled the ambition of rock and indie. ‘Cydonia’ is a museum piece for old ravers to treasure, and the rest of us to ignore.