You start to worry about the state of dance music when you pick this album out nowadays. Where are the dance acts nowadays to pick up the baton from the dance supergroups of this era? The old greats splitting, disappearing or just not putting out the quality that they once used to. What do we have now? Can you really see someone like Stonebridge or 'random trance/funky house act X' crafting an album as superb as this that will still sound as fresh over ten years after its intial release?
Start pondering over thoughts such as that and you'll work yourself up into a frenzy, so highly strung that nothing could unwind you. Well thats until you reach for this and stick it on. All those worries fade away as you being on another journey to the Ultraworld. All your worries melt away as the familiar strains of Fluffy Little Clouds kick in ... they were red, yellow, purple and all the colours dontchya know?
If you've only ever heard Fluffy Little Clouds and have dismissed the Orb as a piece of early 90's dance history, well you just don't know what you're missing. The concept is a journey through space from Earth to the Ultraworld ... a journey that spans two 60 minutes CDs. Each CD progesses from chilled ambient house towards beatless ambience. It helps craft the mood of the vastness of space. I love the way that the tracks blend into each other, each track announced with a spinetingling synth, a choice vocal sample and scatterings of fx, all helping build anticipation for the track to come. The best example of this is when Into The Forth Dimention kicks in. The deep cosmic synth sounds, the ominous 'It was a cloud formation ... roughly the same size of the Earth' sample and the operatic singers. This all then gives way to some simple bongos and then morphs into what I suppose you could call the trance music of the day (remember we are talking 1990 here)! Great stuff.
Its not all po-faced seriousness, there is a unique sense of humour that comes with The Orb. Check the cheeky little 'blublublublubberbleeeerhg! he he he he he he he he!' that you get on the dubaliscious Perpetual Dawn.
The perkier, humourous tracks are balanced perfectly with some wonderful psychadelic ambience. Naturally you'd expect no less with Gong's Steve Hillage on board. Take Spanish Castles In Space, its gentle acoustic bass and piano floats over you. Simple but oh so effective. Then take the 19 minute monster which is A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld. A fine climax to the album, it is a hypnotic blend of synths, wedding bells, aeroplanes flying past before, out of nowhere, 'LOOOOVING YOU IS EASY BECAUSE YOU'RE BEAUTIFUL' resonates across the track. The ambience keeps you on your feet though, near the end of the track you get some wicked driving drums that fade in and fade away with the swirl of 'real world' samples that flow over the track. Music to get lost in.
All these elements pull together in what is one of the finest albums of all time, something that will eternally be greater than the sum of its parts. It is also refreshing to see that it hasn't aged badly at all, I'm sure that it will attain that coveted 'timeless' status.
I could go on forever about the little things in this album that are so perfect and will forever find its CDs finding their way into my hifi but I don't think the internet has enough storage space for it. Great music for anytime, its summer chill out, its winter chill out, its for sad moments, its for happy moments ... for me, it was the accompaniment for the Lord Of The Rings triology on many a train journey around the country.
Its the finest place to start your Orb collection in a portfolio of works that just ooze quality throughout, I'll still recommend this in another 10 years time and it will still sound as fresh then. If this finds its way into your heart, you can also do no wrong with checking the Orb Live 93 album. A different and live take on familiar Orb tracks from venues such as Glastonbury.