Moonbuilding 2703 AD
When I first heard The Orb my mind was blown, the ambient-house served as breath of fresh air was hip and wafting, psychedelic and engaging – it was easy to float along inside it, beside it, within it. But it was never only esoteric – and when it was that was part of the charm.
Over the last two decades I’ve forgotten about The Orb altogether and then ben hooked right back in. That’s the way it’s been, that’s the way it goes. In some sense they’ll never beat Ultraworld (for me at least) in another sense they’d be crazy to even try.
The Orb pioneered a type of chilled out, laidback dance music – aural scenery to softly, calmly chew through. And their best work, ever since, has essentially replicated that feel and those ideas/ideals without ever quite repeating themselves.
So all of this is to say that I was curious enough, but ultimately without expectations, when approaching this, their latest album. I loved the recent/ish collaboration with David Gilmour; an album that just made instant, immediate sense and played out as you’d hope and expect.
But I like Moonbuilding more (for a start we’re saved by Gilmour’s mawkish lyrics). It’s back to what I know and love of The Orb, sampled statements that pose some sort of theoretical/philosophical/existential question and then the soft, smooth, gradual layering of pulsing, bubbling otherworldly music to frame this “human” question.
There’s a central theme here – across four lengthy tracks (the shortest being just shy of 10 minutes, the rest quarter-hour pieces). Something about mankind exhausting its run on earth and moving to the moon, taking the steps to build there, live there. To be honest I really don’t give too much of a shit about that, again – I expect some sort of theme (and often along those lines) when I listen to The Orb. But what I enjoy here is the way the music builds, from slow-growing opener, God’s Mirrorball, through the soft-charge trance of Moon Scapes 2703 BC and on to Lunar Caves’ rebuilding fragments of sound before the big-closing title track. There’s a slinky groove to this closer, we’re almost – dare I say it – nearer to acid-jazz than acid-house.
The Orb’s music – the best of it – is calming and glorious and though I can live without it for a long time after I always return to it. This new album ranks up there with a small handful of their very best works for me. And I can enjoy it on repeat across a whole morning, those four songs playing over and again…