MOONBUILDING 2703 AD
The Orb have managed a successful career over the past 25 years. Pretty good when no-one thought you could have ambient as anything other than a room from which to relax after too many repetitive beats. Certainly not filling venues like the Brixton Academy. But they did that, managed to appear on Top of the Pops and here we are in 2015 with Moonbuilding 2073 AD.
Truth be told, I rather stopped listening to them after the 90s. Even their 2010 collaboration with Dave Gilmour Metallic Spheres, which I bought, only got listened to a couple of times. Have they become a bit Rolling Stones? Trading on past hits like Little Fluffy Clouds, Blue Room etc. but with little new to offer? That this new album only has four tracks shows that Alex Paterson’s sense of epic hasn’t deserted him. And, sitting here in the early morning sun, Moonbuilding makes perfect sense. It’s an antidote to the faster, faster social media, constantly connected, world.
God’s Mirrorball opens the album with a sample on the nature of God, good and evil. Always a proper focal point. There then unfolds 15 minutes of contemplation in four movements. The prevailing sense is of a drift into dub techno in a way that The Orb of yesteryear only rarely addressed. No lazy spliffed sounds here. It retains a focus throughout. Moonscapes 2073 BC is more recognisably The Orb, with dub to the fore and a little bleepiness.
Lunar Caves is the slightest of the tracks. Both in terms of length, only nine minutes for goodness sake, and sound. It’s that wispy, beatless jam that all too often sounds like filler. The album ends with the title track. An abrupt change of direction. Wah wah guitar licks and a jazzy sense. It’s slightly something from another album but shows a welcome sense of adventure. Needs a Steve Cobby remix.
So, The Orb. Still relevant after all these years. And in God’s Mirrorball a track to rival anything from their extensive back catalogue.
But, as is the way, that isn’t the end. Not if you’ve bought the deluxe vinyl issue. That comes with three extra tracks. First, Dilla’s Moon Quake (The Orb’s Tribute to J Dilla). This is lounge ambient dub. This has a louche swing to its hips and dubs itself right nicely. Lovely track. Should have replaced Lunar Caves on the album proper.
Secondly, Moon Quake (Slice of Silver). A much more spun out tune, floating in space. Ambient of the old school. And none the worse for that. Finally, Moon Quake 6, which with it’s multi-tacked vocal sample brings us back to earth. The album’s out on 22 June.
Blurb: The new offering features a small track list, but turns each one of its four cuts into a mini epic in its own right. Opener ‘GOD’S MIRRORBALL’ hits the ground floating, employing a handful of cosy statics to great effect before finally discharging into an intricate mosaic of atmospheric melodic sketches and gripping rhythms. With a hypnotic runtime of more than fourteen minutes, it immediately establishes a blueprint for the other album tracks to follow, perfectly illustrating the vast extent of the artists’ vision and their impressive skills in luring in listeners.
Likewise, second track ‘MOON SCAPES 2703 BC’ presents itself as a uniquely versatile affair, sitting comfortably between ambient flourishes and beat-driven focus, holding as many twists and turns as a caper movie, but carefully grounding every single one of its cliffhangers in its impeccable flow. With a runtime of approximately nine minutes, ‘LUNAR CAVES’ is the shortest jam of the bunch – and also the most ethereal, keeping its rhythmic content to a bare, pulse-like minimum and opting for enticing,
freewheeling synth textures instead. Album closer and title cut ‘MOONBUILDING 2703 AD’ introduces a surprisingly jazzy vibe mingling rather well with the wealth of electronic tricks – even indulging in abrasive bass sweeps and a breathtaking multitude of different rhythm sections, that constantly switch places. It’s a fitting closing act for a full-length as multifaceted as this, as idiosyncratic as possible and as muscling as needed. Welcome to The Orb’s aural labyrinth, where nothing is what it seems and the unexpected waits just around the corner.