Preview: The Orb
Electronic music that doesn't keep a single beat
Posted: January 16, 2013
Alex Paterson, left, has been with The Orb since co-founding it in 1988 and cites Brian Eno and German group Kraftwerk as inspirations on the band's work.
This year, the British electronic act The Orb celebrates a silver anniversary - or at least 25 years of Alex Paterson playing as The Orb, though, to be fair, Thomas Fehlmann, his current better half, has been the only consistent other member since 1995. If you're into milestones, it's probably worth the 440 Kč to see the electronic pioneers at Lucerna Music Bar; if you're into music, it might be worth more, but if you book now, you won't have to pay an extra heller to the scalpers later.
Though it was no stretch to call The Orb pioneers a sentence ago, the group, of course, has stood on the shoulders of giants: Paterson has cited as inspirations Kraftwerk and Brian Eno, and co-founder Jimmy Cauty came straight from KLF. Since the first album in 1991, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, the duo has put out a dozen more, the most recent being last year's The Orbserver in the Star House, featuring the 76-year-old reggae and dub pioneer Lee "Scratch" Perry.
That album earned a so-so 6.8 out of 10 from Pitchfork, but a to-be-fair review makes that a high 6.8. "Rather than embalming past glories or forcing a big statement, The Orb sound like they're having fun on these jams, recorded quickly in Berlin, with pioneer Lee 'Scratch' Perry," goes the review from Brian Howe. "On our end, the feeling is mutual. Let's be honest - this thing could easily have come out as an interstellar train wreck of piling echoes and filter snaps, as can happen when dub is built by addition rather than subtraction. But the Orb gesture at the Black Ark Studios aesthetic with panache and restraint."
The building of dub by addition represents a new annex to The Orb's complex of sound, which began back in 1988 with Cauty as something of an acid house. With Kris "Thrash" Weston, in 1991, there was ambient; with Fehlmann joining full-time in 1995, there was what Rolling Stone called a "symphonic flow." By the turn of the 21st century, NME announced that The Orb had been "freed from the Floydian pretensions that dogged the band throughout the mid-'90s," referring to the duo's experiments in psychedelic shows.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 8
Where: Lucerna Music Bar
Tickets: 440 Kč
With the Lee "Scratch" Perry work, there's that new addition, perhaps not a totally welcome one to those who admire The Orb's first work, but, at the least, something that keeps an old group from getting older. And even if you can't take the new stuff at all, The Orb still has 25 years to draw on in its live shows.
Milan Gagnon can be reached at