COW / Chill Out World! by The Orb
I said on Friday that I’d try to have a review of The Orb’s new album COW here today. And this is it. They’re right you know, you should Chill Out World.
The Orb were pretty wonderful in the 90s, both recorded and live. I bought most of their 90s output and saw them many times. But they faded and so did my interest. After a long gap, I bought Metallic Spheres (2010) which was noodly and I only played a few times. 2015’s Moonbuilding 2703 AD was better but the length of the tracks was now too much. The omens are better with COW. Ten tracks, nothing’s over 7 minutes and most are less. And it was recorded relatively quickly, coming together in six months.
Opens with First, Consider the Lillies. I assume this is taken from the Scottish clearance novel of the same name. At seven minutes it is the album’s longest track. It sounds strangely longer, so unhurried is it. Full of half-heard samples and field noise. This is a wonderful track.
Wireless Mk2 relies on piano and stretched sounds. Like the wire on the dial of my first radio. Siren 33 (Orphee Mirror) is stranger still. No beats. Little by way of seeming structure. Disembodied sounds come and go as this veers into experimental classical territory. 4am Exhale (Chill Out World!) is curiously less chilled, drifting back to more dance territory, albeit musique concrete and neo-ambient.
5th Dimensions may be a reference to the earlier track Into The Fourth Dimension (1991) but frankly who knows and should we care? The fifth dimension is a mathematical abstract and perhaps the tack is simply that. An abstract set of repetition and noise set against a background hiss and hum.
Sex (Panoramic Sex Heal) with its guitar sounds and cicadas does echo elements of the classic Chill Out album. Made me rather wistful. This leads into 7 Oaks. Whether that’s really South London’s Sevenoaks is moot. Strings saw away distractedly to fade. Strings are plucked and tapes are on loop.
9 Elms over River Eno (Channel 9) has more of those Chill Out memories. It clashes the US, River Eno with uplifting sounds of a London sunrise skyline. There’s something huggable about this one. The sound of emotion bursting free. Closer, The 10 Sultans of Rudyard (Moo Moo Mix) is birdsong, forests and tension in the piano.
Overall this is a good album. But I can’t help by yearn. There’s no dub here, which was a lot of the fun in the early days. There is nothing by way of conventional beats. It’s all soundscapes. This is all quite… well… grown up. It’s good but its not containing that little bit of naughtiness that I for one would like a touch more of.
First, Consider the Lillies
Blurb: Being pioneers with a new album created in no more than 6 months, THE ORB are bound to be exposed to fan expectations running high, while quizzical questions about little fluffy clouds and the good old times take over. It’s especially jarring as the duo of accomplished soundsmiths Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann has become known for its genre-bending curiosity and surprising sonic detours, exploring experimental soundscapes as well as club-friendly beats. The funny thing is, though, that whatever the context, you know a track from THE ORB when you hear it. Case in point: COW / CHILL OUT, WORLD!, their latest full-length offering – a masterful ambient album that branches out in many directions, but unmistakably sounds like THE ORB in either ear (and probably to your third ear, too).
Once more, THE ORB’s trademark playfulness is on full display on COW / CHILL OUT, WORLD!, and it doesn’t limit itself to the multi-layered sampling and psychedelic sound composites that the duo has become known for – you’ll find it in the album title as well. The simple invitation (or order?) to chill out (relax? Calm the eff down?) is converted into an acronym – and the cow that you might expect to find on a Pink Floyd cover or with iconic UK chill-out/dance pranksters The KLF. It’s not so much an obscure trope coming full circle as a perfect example for THE ORB’s multitimbral approach to sound and meaning – a compelling, immersive journey to diverse places and impressions. Each track title is a conceptual work in its own right, playing with multiple references, some of which remain highly personal and mysterious. But the greatest feat of THE ORB’s latest outing might just be how all this semantic doodling never gets in the way of the actual listening, at all times directly relating the artists’ sonic vitality and cheerful nosiness. Chill out world! and treat yourself to an outstanding new ambient experience from THE ORB.