The Orb – The Dream

Recent Orb albums have been kinda rough, starting with the label-delayed dry heave, Cydonia. Things recovered with Bicycles & Tricycles and it’s spine-crushing dub highlight, “Tower Twenty Three” – the unfortunate MC British Shouty Boringpants track “Aftermath” aside.

SIDETRACK: If American thesaurus rappers are difficult to deal with (and they are), then having the UK version of guidos try their hand at it is fifty times more irritating. Enough of that sort of thing has you wishing they’d hurry up with their experiment to become 1984: The Musical and just go fully totalitarian already. To be fair to the poor souls whose mp3 player is stocked with The Streets and other abominations, take heart – at least you’re not nerdcore fans! Oh hey Star Wars! Oh hey video games! Wow, the 80s! He’s rapping about things I care about! Isn’t this great?

Sure is, art school. Sure is.

And so we turn our hungry eyes back to The Orb.Okie Dokie It’s the Orb on Kompakt was a welcome break from dubtronic slapstickadelica [1] by running face-first into minimal ambient dance land. Fehlmann helped reign in Alex Patterson‘s perma-baked sense of humor (and sloppiness), a path that has boths strengths and weaknesses, to be sure. Overall it was a huge win for the forces of decency and good musics. Some of the compilations running about were pretty decent, and the split they did with Meat Beat Manifesto is patently excellent.

The Dream sees Patterson off on his own in the wilderness once again, but the result isn’t so much sloppy but poppy and heavy on the vocals. There are the ambient dub excursions as per the opener, but “Vuja De” is an updated take on the “Perpetual Dawn” ethos, but with less Jamaica and a little more teen pop influence. While that does not sound right in the slightest, the concept gets polished a few minutes later – and has a bit more Jamaica put back in –  with “A Beautiful Day.”

Maybe The Orb is shooting to recapture the heady days of “Little Fluffy Clouds” [2], but there are several radio-friendly cuts that have that same stab at the line between dreamy pop and whatever you call cut-up reggaedubisms. “DDD (Dirty Disco Dub)” is an accurately-named attempt to meld disco and dub, while “The Truth Is…” has the crazy religious people samples and another Patterson Greek (Jamaican) Chorus. It’s also the strongest of all the pop tracks on The Dream beyond the closer, “Let the Music Set You Free.” While it lives up to its cringe-worthy title in some ways, it’s also their most tightly-focused bit of Radio-Friendly Babylon.

I find myself more interested in the dancehall turns of “Mother Nature” and the dub anthems “Lost & Found” and “Katskills,” though I also deeply appreciate the throwback block of “High Noon”, “Codes”, and “Orbsonia,” the most stereotypically Orb-ish pieces on The Dream.

Overall? My faith is renewed and strength restored. It’s a bit more pop hook than I would normally care for, but age mellows us all, especially aging post-rave potheads. [3]

[1] I.E. goofy pothead humor mashed through a delay pedal.

[2] The album version is probably one of my least favorite songs, but the version on Live 93 is rather excellent.

[3] Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it is a thing that has it’s own thing, and isn’t always that healthy either for one’s art or one’s body, especially when you’re pushing 50. ||

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