The Orb featuring Lee Scratch Perry / The Observer In The Star House
CD / Vinyl
Cooking Vinyl / Released September 2012
In many ways it’s rather surprising this unarguably special LP hasn’t arrived before now. Those responsible began work some eight years ago, and the respective scenes these practitioners belong to- ambient and dub- certainly go hand in reefer soaked hand.
On top of this Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s previous work with The Mad Professor, which pitted his roots against the Bristolian Wild Bunch (see also: Massive Attack) shows the legend has a penchant for electronic noises. Then again, both the dub king, Dr Alex Paterson (sole survivor of The Orb as was), and producer Thomas Fehlmann (long term Orb head), the three brains behind this release, are particularly difficult characters to tie down, meaning slow burners are all we should expect.
Regardless the album itself proves to be very much worth the wait. Not roots, and a few miles removed from ambient proper, if people hide their laptops or at least ban irritating tune-by-tune soundtracks this may well be the next great LP to buy and hammer, soothing post-techno aches. An immersive beast, to say the least.
Of course there are strong elements of both artists inherent in most things here. But then there’s much more besides, Man In The Moon melds dark UK downbeat, glitchy keys, and the instantly recognisable vocals of ‘Scratch’, then takes diversions into block party hip hop flavoured brass stabs, bringing the atmosphere into funkier shades, though still keeping things in the shadows (those looking to find more sunshine should opt for the distinctly bar-house arrangement of Hold Me Upsetter, or Golden Clouds, its slightly Lemon Jelly-like breaks and acoustic guitar, all very exotic).
Elsewhere House of the Orbs has more than a hint of acid house in the natural noise samples, adding timbre to lyrics Mr G. and H Foundation would be more than in agreement with, though it’s far removed from dancefloor fare. And, when the soaring strings slowly reveal themselves for the most electronica focused moments on the album, unexpected is an understatement. Accomplished, and wholly needed in a time when downbeat is usually just downtempo, epic, and/or vocally dull, this collection opts for none of those norms, and we strongly recommend.