Published Jun 19, 2018After a pair of meandering techno-influenced ambient albums on Wolfgang Voigt's Kompakt label, Dr. Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann's latest entry in the mythic book of the Orb is a disparate collection of dubbed-up entries dually primed for open-air summer festivals and chillouts.
Harking back to the Orb's collab-heavy 1991 arrival The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, the 15th studio album bearing the handle incorporates a cast of various guests into the fold, and while a drifty sense of dubby groove pervades the album, it's a pointedly diverse collection consistently bolstered by the duo's ability to slip freely between genres and zones, each of its 12 entries buoyed by a kitchen sink approach to sampling, writing and production.
A title like No Sounds Are Out of Bounds could easily apply to the voracious sample plundering that coloured the little fluffy cloud visions Paterson pursued in the project's heyday, but here it's also a directive that points to some exciting forays into pop production, pairing up with Scottish singer Emma Gillespie (Emma's Imagination) for a big room sparkle-house voyage across a starry synth vista ("The End of the End"), tapping revival-era Slits singer Hollie Cook for a sun-slicked organ-led pop anthem ("Rush Hill Road") that has reggae MC Brother Culture toasting over the bridge, or commissioning soul session singers Andy Caine and Mary Pearce to wail all over a piano-guided house track with plenty of its disco roots intact ("Soul Planet").
And while those are the standout moments, they also pack some more nostalgic Orb experiments for the fans; "Wish I Had A Pretty Dog" offers pure abstract indulgence as pulsing spring reverb, a melting synth line and a smacking dub hook propel listeners through a dark and anxious world of ringing phones and heavy dog panting; "Ununited States" offers an ambient ride through Hollywood entertainment reports and Soviet news bulletins, shimmering drones and Roger Eno's sparse piano calling back to a lonely trumpet; and "Wolfbane" brings a stoner jazz collage incorporating everything from schlocky b-movie drama, air horns and slowed dialogue to a pitch-shifting sample of Nate Dogg's "Smoke weed everyday" line from "The Next Episode," Youth's double bass flowing all over it.
But even at their poppiest, the palette at their fingertips is still pointedly varied, as the duo sneaks some of the album's most mischievous moments into its pop statements, scribbling all over "Rush Hill Road" with cartoon plunderphonics and quivering synth diversions, and diving into a dubby wormhole of a breakdown that sends everything spinning at the bridge on "The End of the End." Meanwhile, "Soul Planet" is the longest entry on hand, picking up signals from Sir Henry at Rawlinson End and making contact with the Looney Tunes over the course of its kaleidoscopic 15 minutes.
If not the most focused entry in the project's storied discography, it's a delightfully wide angled glance at what the Orb still have brewing and perhaps a projection of a vital new period of experimentation. (Cooking Vinyl)