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Orb - History of the Future

  by Cila Warncke

published: 2 / 11 / 2013

Orb - History of the Future
Label: Island Records
Format: CD Box


Excessive and often unlistenable three CD/DVD box set from influential 90's electronic act, The Orb

In the world of electronic music, where trends fade faster than their acolytes’ glowsticks and technology progresses by leaps, nostalgia is a dangerous game. So you have to admire the bullishness of The Orb mastermind Dr Alex Paterson (a doctor in the same sense, presumably, as Hunter “Doctor of Journalism” Thompson) who – with a quarter-century of ambient exploration under his belt – decided to trip down memory lane with a three-disc-plus-DVD boxset ambitiously titled 'A History of the Future'. Disregard for convention is one of The Orb’s appealing traits and, in a mangled but fruity metaphor, the band’s official website claims its ethos: “Was still the spirit of punk rock, meaning rules were broken, there was attitude under the ambience and healthy regard for upsetting the nearest applecart, giving it the large salad atop a spangled middle finger.” Non-spangled listeners be warned: The Orb’s oeuvre is as baffling and ultimately infuriating as that last sentence. Disc one is palatable if you can appreciate it with early-90's ears. ‘Assassin’, ‘Perpetual Dawn’ and ‘Toxygene’ are standouts, alongside the better-known but pedestrian ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ and ‘A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld’. Mercifully, these are album or 7” versions and clock in at reasonable four to eight minutes each. No such luck on discs two (remixes) and three (live). Here you get the same tracks elongated past the point of endurance. In addition to his antipathy for editing, Dr Paterson apparently never met a bassline he liked. The Orb attacks your ears like a swarm of angry mechanical mosquitos, with high-pitched synths, squeaks and shrieks clambering over each other in a race towards inaudibility. CD3, which consists of live cuts from a 1993 gig, argues that drugs were stronger 20 years ago, as only copious acid consumption could make the 18 minutes of ‘Blue Room’, or the cod-eastern racket of ‘Valley’, bearable. Perhaps dropping a couple of tabs would enhance the home listening experience. Otherwise, the second and third discs are probably most useful as sonic weapons against stray dogs and burglars. This is rather sad. Having spent years rebutting the snobby assertion that electronica is not “real music” I would love to be enthusiastic about this outing. But as much as I dig Paterson’s ‘fuggit’ attitude, 'A History of the Future' proves that the music was of its time – and time moves on. For the good stuff, with less filler, buy 1998’s U.F.Off – 'The Best of The Orb' instead.

Track Listing:-
1 A Huge Evergrowing Pulsati
2 Little Fluffy Clouds (7" Edit)
3 Perpetual Dawn (Solar Youth Mix)
4 Blue Room (7" Mix)
5 Assassin (7" Mix)
6 Oxbow Lakes
7 Asylum
8 Toxygene
9 Once More
10 Ghostdancing
11 A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Bra
12 Little Fluffy Clouds (Coldcut Heave
13 Perpetual Dawn (Ultrabass I
14 Blue Room (Excerpt 605)
15 Majestic (Heavy Mix)
16 Close Encounters (Smile, You're On
17 Assassin (Another Live Mix)
18 Toxygene (Ganja Kru Rem
19 Once More... (Mark Pritchar

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