At first it takes a second to register that The Orb have now been making music for 26 years, a duration that qualifies many guitar-centric bands for entry to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In a year where it seems like many of the dance / electronic scene’s big names are suddenly on the move again though, it’s important to remember that unlike many of their peers (for example Leftfield or Future Sound Of London) they’ve remained continually active throughout this time without ever entering a period of dormancy. While a veritable raft of collaborators have passed through The Orb’s ranks over the years though, it’s been the good Doctor Alex Paterson who’s remained the collective’s guiding force since its beginnings, with live / studio collaborator Thomas Fehlmann (of Sun Electric fame) having played an important role in The Orb from 1996’s ‘Orbus Terrarum’ album onwards.
The last couple of years have seen The Orb pursuing collaborations with the likes of former Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour and reggae legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, but in the wake of the last year’s retrospective ‘History Of The Future Parts 1&2’ compilations, the Orb’s latest album ‘Moonbuilding 2703 Ad’ sees them in many senses returning to their classic sound, with expansive track lengths once again being the norm. On the eve of the new album’s release, Chris Downton caught up with Alex Paterson via email to find out more.
‘Moonbuilding 2703 Ad’ follows a period where you’ve been more oriented towards collaborations with the likes of David Gilmour and Lee Perry. Do you see this new album as being more of a return to the classic / essential sound of The Orb?
It’s as the Orb no doubt about it. No other people on this baby, In (some) ways the classic Orb material was with so many different artists. ‘Moonbuilding 2703 Ad’ is the opposite to this, but it’s full of many juicy ideas and we complement each over as individuals for the wider picture of trying to make album music.
‘Moonbuilding 2703 Ad’ also sees you returning to expansive track running times, do you feel that The Orb works best over a broader canvas, compared to shorter tracks?
Yes indeed it does sound better over a larger canvas. With Thomas (Fehlmann) indeed it does. With Youth it’s more pop, less minimal. I’m trying to get them to work together in The Orb, we did at the end of last year, and we are working on a road trip movie. Shorter tracks – (look at) ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’. Now that works and that was with Youth.
When approaching this latest album, was there anything in particular that you wanted to do differently?
No, not really, just make an album not like the last one or two.
Is there an underlying conceptual theme or story to these tracks? And were there any reasons why you choose the year ‘2703 Ad’ in particular for the title?
Moonbuilding, it should mean something to you, the reader? In the past/future – in the worm hole of space we can do anything, build planets and supporting moons for tides and time. Seeing the Earth and the moon in a eternal love affair helped too. 27 is my daughter’s birthday and 03 is my sons. A d(og); our puppy dog is Ruby.
The tracks here sound like they’re just ripe for visual accompaniment; is this something that you’re interested in exploring?
Moonbuilding and monkeys on dog back. With loads of versions of “Mouse Trap’ thrown in for good measure. Flying machines from the Rama Empire and Sumerian texts of the creation of this matrix we live in now and what it was before Phillip K Dick invented ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’.
These days it seems like you’ve cut back on the remix work; is remixing other artists something that you’re still interested in pursuing?
Ask Thomas. Personally I’m doing a remix for David Gilmour, but I doubt it will see the light of day. David’s sort of like that. On the Orb front, I’m now being told what is cool and what isn’t . Shame as once upon a time we used anything and turned it into the Orb sound.
What sorts of plans do you have in terms of touring behind this album? Can you describe the sort of live show that you’ll be doing?
Loud and fun. See websites for details. Plans for touring – (you’re) asking me? Not much until September and then it’s a month in the land of the free and not so easy. October UK tour, November European tour. India (in the) New Year, followed by Oz and New Zealand.
What’s your opinion of the current EDM / dance scene?
Are there any newer artists that you particularly enjoy / admire?
Teebs, Metamono, Studio Rockers, Another Fine Day.
What do you think has made The Orb continue to thrive and prolifically release new work, while so many other electronic acts have fallen by the wayside in recent years?
Never afraid to change. Don’t become a broken record. Try breaking a record or two! New Orb radio station www.wnbclondon.com coming in July every Thursday noon until late.
The Orb’s new album Moonbuilding 2703 Ad is out now on Kompakt.