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The Orb – U. F. Off: The Best of The Orb

18 11 2011

Listened: Friday November 11

The Orb are one of those rare bands who manage to sound classic yet not dated. My first exposure to them was on a mix tape a British guy named Steve sent me. I believe Steve was one of my first Internet friends way back in 1995 or so, and it was so long ago I don’t remember what his last name is or how we “met”. I still have the mix tapes somewhere (he sent me 4), and they say “Steve’s Mix” on them; that’s the only reason I remember even his first name. There was some great music on those tapes; I need to remind myself what’s there.

The Orb song I remember most from the “dance music” tape was Little Fluffy Clouds, which is an amazing painting in sound. I can see the clouds and understand how beautiful they are, just from the use of spoken word samples and musical flourishes. Whenever someone hears the inherent musical sound in conversation and uses it so effectively as a sample like this, I’m impressed. Perpetual Dawn is more of a “proper” song and satisfies my reggae/dub jones. It must have been really fun to dance to back in the day. DJ Asylum seems to be clearly influenced by the original Dr Who theme, with its chimy keyboards.

Mostly, I just love the way the songs chug along, like a slow-moving freight train. There’s no need to build to a climax like modern dance music, or at least a very immediate, intentionally crowd-pleasing one. I really need to get some proper Orb albums, since I love this Best Of so much. Similarly, Orbital – an Orb contemporary, who are very easy to confuse with the Orb since they are just as brilliant.

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