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Orbserver In The Star House
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Recorded in Berlin over the last few months, The Observer At The Starhouse sparks with a rare magic as Dr Alex Paterson and long-time Orb member Thomas Fehlmann construct a panorama of stripped-down backdrops to provide the perfect backdrops for the Upsetter s inimitable pronouncements, righteous declarations and sweet vocals. The Orb have long been known for their assimilation of deepest dub into their stratospheric sonic innovations, as evidenced on U.F. Orb s Towers Of Dub, itself something of a Lee Perry tribute with its sound effects and distinctive underlying eccentricity. Starting in the late 60s with the Upsetters, Perry wrote the book on Jamaican mixing desk trickery, then constantly ripped it up to create new aural blueprints for the music via his Black Ark productions of the following decade, since then charting a waywardly idiosyncratic path which has ensured legions of followers absorbing his every move. Meanwhile, Thomas has been at the forefront of Germany s electronic music scene since his pioneering avant foraging with Palais Schaumburg in the late 1980s, becoming part of Berlin s rapidly-evolving techno underground, working with Sun Electric and many of the city s major artists and operations, including the mighty Kompakt. His immaculate electronic knowledge and intuition now had two disparate lightning rods to bounce between, recalling, I met Lee for the first time during this session and it was pretty touching to see how an unexpected connection and inspirational exchange could so awaken our creative juices. Alex and I had never made so much new music on the spot before. It was soon pretty clear that we wouldn't get far with the four backing tracks we pre-produced for the session. Lee was so overwhelmingly creative that it took an afternoon for those to be finished. From then on we were forced to come up with new beats on the spot, to keep Lee in the flow. Scratch s vocals glide distinctively over bass heavy monsters such as Soulman and Man On The Moon , the most overt Orb-dub behemoth on the set, while Don t Rush takes the ridim form then dismantles it in subterranean sonic catacombs. House grooves inflect House Of The Orb and Ashes while a funky slide bass-line percolates under Thirsty . Hold Me Upsetter sparkles with lovely bass-string interplay, while Congo brings in rolling banks of African percussion, many of the tracks beat with the subliminal rasta heartbeat. Both parties rework one of their classics; Police And Thieves , the track which Perry produced for Junior Murvin in 1976, is turned into a bass-heavy vocal vehicle for the reggae veteran, while The Orb s Little Fluffy Clouds is reshaped as the hallucinogenic dancehall clatter of Golden Clouds . The mouth-watering prospect of a legendary master working with long-time acolytes who tuned into his unique wavelength long ago blossoms and explodes on The Observer At The Starhouse, which, in the best Scratch and Orb tradition, often takes music where it s not gone before.
Once upon a time, in a distant galaxy, a Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry vocal album was a rare thing.
Arriving in Kingston in the early 1960s, Perry changed the shape of Jamaican popular music many times over. Of his many achievements, pioneering dub at his Black Ark studio is the standout. He didn't concentrate on singing until relatively late: his first full-length vocal set arrived in 1978, but the next didn't surface until the mid-1980s, when a transformed Perry washed up in England as a walking performance-art piece, following a dramatic metamorphosis.
Since then, he has collaborated with myriad entities, issuing albums of varying quality with dizzying speed, ranging from intriguing excellence to terrible trash. Thankfully, this playful pairing with dub-influenced dance duo, The Orb, leans toward the former.
Perry’s babbling stream of non-consciousness fits well over their fluidly spacey electronic backing, resulting in plenty of moments to savour. The minimalist rhythm of Golden Clouds, a reworking of The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds, has an optimistic, upbeat quality to it, as a double-tracked Perry communes with God.
Hold Me Upsetter has a wacky bossa nova feel, courtesy of a warm vocal sample, as Perry’s nonsensical chants are dubbed into oblivion.
Man in the Moon is another charmer, with snippets of wisdom in the Upsetter’s ramblings as the track slowly unfolds; it begins sounding like a Goan trance track gone wrong, but soon drifts into skanking territory, as Perry proclaims himself a Swiss tycoon, at home on the moon.
Re-working Junior Murvin’s Police & Thieves might seem like a bad idea, but this warped re-cut nearly works, in part because The Orb draw in a few bars of an ancient 1960s Upsetters organ track, chopped up with some ghostly 1970s melodica work. Perry’s vocal improves as the track progresses, too.
And although The Orb harness a range of mostly down-tempo styles on the disc, it all hangs together rather well, and unlike many recent releases, nothing too objectionable passes Mr Perry’s lips.
Overall, The Orbserver… is lots of fun for late-period Perry fans, and will appeal to Orbologists, too.
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Top Customer Reviews
I have been listening to Scratch for 30 years.
I have LONG avoided buying every new thing out with his name on it, but in my careful experience, I think this is the best new thing he has done since ''Time Boom x De Devil Dead'' with Adrian Sherwood circa 1990.
The Orb have concocted fabulous grooves here. This disc is NOT for dub purists....but if you know your Kraftwerk from your Cabaret Voltaire, you will love the throbbing backdrops afford the crazy old bastard here.
It's essentially his typically amusing observations thrust into a chamber of Trans-Europe Express / Slugging For Jesus style industrial beats.
It's really very good. DON'T go expecting a Black Ark style production, you will not find one.
Love the track where Perry is asked to describe the sky of his formative years - they are obviously desperately hoping he will utter the phrase ''Little Fluffy Clouds'', the signature classic of The (early) Orb. He comes close!
It's different. It's not the same old Scratch chanting down Babylon to diminishing returns with ''reggae'' backdrops no longer fit to light his chalice.
I highly recommend it, especially to fellow roots-reggae lovers who also dig Krautrock and early industrial sounds circa the peak years of Suicide, Cabs, etc....
Perry is chanting to a different set of rhythms here, and it works very well.
a bleeding big feild of loverly luscious turnips good for me good for you and all the animals too TURNIPS !
This is a strange beast - it feels like it was put together for the lark, with nothing in the way of any truly classic tracks. It's a summery album, but in some way almost too focussed to be listened to at a party. It's head music, but seems to kind of want you to dance to it. It's jolly happy to be working with series dub legend Lee Scratch Perry, but it's even happier to let him arse around on it.
Make no mistake, this IS a strange beast. Pros - it's fun, the instrumentation is crisp and the bass is DEEP. Despite apparently limited tools to hand, the Orb boys make each track sound unique. It's well sequenced, and the mix is clear. It SOUNDS good. And Perry's whacked out madman ramblings are good for a giggle.
Cons - it's not really FOR anyone. The Orb aren't really stretching any boundries here to accomadate their guest star. They're just doing that Kompakt thing they do; cold, teutonic splashes and straightforward minimalist beats. It's not exactly earth-shattering. Lee Scratch Perry doesn't sound particularly good on this either. He sounds like a frail and weak old man, someone's insane grandfather who has been wheeled out into a recording studio by his giggling grandkids and told to say whatever comes to mind. Again, it sounds like it was done for a lark, with none of Perry's particular brand of political ire, or The Orb's way of working around a sampler. There's no edge.
I still like this, but I'm not sure why. I think it's because it's fun, it's three old men having a giggle together and releasing the results. Is this cheeky? Probably, but then isn't what these three old fellas are known for?
This disc is one of the most disappointing things I've spent £10 on for a long time. Having been jolly excited about the whole premise since I first got wind of it, I've now listened to it twice and tried my hardest to pluck one thing to like about it.
On the face of it it's a dream combination. The good Doctor and Scratch... together at last. Towers of Dub meets the Super Ape. What could go wrong?
If like me you're buying this on the strength of a love for tunes like Towers of Dub, Tower 23 or conversely Dread Lion or Enter the Dragon and your mouth is watering at the whole damn prospect of them gloriously meshing... you're in for a major shock.
What you're served up is 11 tracks of absolute mediocre unimaginatively drum machined boredom... with Lee Perry rambling over the top. Now, I should say I am a great fan of Scratch Perry and equally I have been a great fan of the Orb since my raving days when Adventures beyond the Ultraworld first dropped. Both artists have produced sublime moments through their careers so it's remarkably perplexing that together, they can produce something that is just so very flat, hollow and... well, lazy.
I've not been a big fan of Scratch's latest releases, soft, almost pop synth "reggae" with his increasingly eccentric ramblings stamped over it. If you liked his release from last year "Rise Again", you may like this... I didn't and I don't.
Bearing in mind Alex Paterson's absolutely scorching Trojan collection - I'll Be Black (if you haven't got it... GET IT!) it's obvious he has a deep understanding of reggae and dub - so I just can't figure out what this LP is all about.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I asked my mate what the LP was like and he said, "You love The Orb and you love Lee Perry, It's a no-brainer really" He was spot-on.Published 12 months ago by WALTHAMSTOW007
In love with this sound, combined Orb and Perry on a hot summer day is irresistible. Cheering on a cold winter day, listenable limitless times.Published on 3 Aug. 2013 by Amazon Customer
I love the Orb but this album did not really have any stand out tracks for me.
Lee "Scratch" Perry is obviously a big influence on Alex Patterson but like his other... Read more
a good collaboration, rather orb and modern perry like! i think it works well, and i enjoy some of these tracks a lot.Published on 10 July 2013 by bert
quite simply. brilliant (i presume) if you like lee scratch perry. utter drivel if you dont. this is the first orb album that i sold the day i bought it. Read morePublished on 11 Jun. 2013 by puppy revenge
The whole thing was ruined by having Lee Scratch Perry collaborate on this. It just sounds like an old man mumbling his way through the whole album. Read morePublished on 24 April 2013 by Amazon Customer
Have liked the orb for years, but have listened to little of LSP. Put the CD on, put my feet up and continued to read a rivertingly good book. Read morePublished on 23 April 2013 by M. jarrett
My first Orb album. Love it. Great bass sounds, the sort that you just have rock to. Every track a pleasure.Published on 23 Jan. 2013 by Kite