sat 20/07/2024

CD: The Orb – Moonbuilding 2703 AD | reviews, news & interviews

CD: The Orb – Moonbuilding 2703 AD

CD: The Orb – Moonbuilding 2703 AD

Alex Patterson and Thomas Fehlmann prove, once again, that space is the place

The Orb and God's mirrorball shortly before the trinket went missing

Every 75 years or so, Halley’s Comet comes round to say, "Hi". When it does, there’s genuine excitement, not because there’s any kind of stock trade in fond reminiscence when it comes to glowing lumps of rock, but because it’s a genuinely captivating event. The Orb’s latest offering is similarly hurtling through space once more, and reminding us of their conceptual debut that slapped us around our collective face back in 1991. It feels like a similar event.

The first thing to say is that this is, without doubt, the most coherent offering from the Orb (currently comprised of Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann) since Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld and shares a similar, linear trajectory. Opener “God’s Mirrorball” contains clear call-backs to the progressive tones of the early Nineties among the shuffling beats and metallic pad synths, yet refuses to look self-consciously over its shoulder, preferring a more heads-down approach. “Moonscapes 2703 BC” boasts enormous bass at the pulsating centre of its universe, something that lends it both gravity and gravitas. It feels both old and impossibly futuristic at the same time – much like watching actual footage of the lunar landings. However, if there is nostalgia to be found here, it’s remembering how good things can be, not how good they were. As the track progresses through revolving, repeated motifs, it’s like a planet, spinning on its axis while hurtling through space on a grand – and wildly elliptical – orbit.

“Lunar Caves” offers the first real ambient moment of the album, full of static loops and concrete cadences marshaled by simple hi-hats that wind the song taut before it washes away to its inevitable resolve. It actually has more in common with the knackered house of Andy Stott or the abrasive-yet-lush soundscapes of Demdike Stare than anything from the Orb’s own back catalogue and is very, very good indeed. Only “Moonbuilding 2703 AD” feels slightly out of place, the percussive nod to J Dilla – made more explicit via a remix on the extended edition – feels jarringly jaunty at first, but soon builds to a point at which the listener should be more than happy to forgive a slight jolt on this journey to the Moon.

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