The story goes that The Orb were conceived one Sunday afternoon in ’88, after Alex Paterson and Jimi Cauty had driven home to the latter’s celebrated London squat Trancentral from a Shoom night here in Brighton. Cauty departed long ago for The KLF (and is often found nowadays exhibiting his artwork locally at Ink_d), while Paterson and his flexible line-up of collaborators went on to pioneer sample-led ambient music, score 40-minute hit singles and turn a generation of clubbers onto the then-unfashionable outer limits of prog and psych. Tonight’s show is the start of The Orb’s 25th anniversary tour, a sold-out gig stuffed with an audience of veteran ravers.
Growing up in the early 90s, our experiences of The Orb’s breakthrough years are married to memories of fractal videos, 3D rave glasses, blocks of hash and microdots. Times have changed and we miss the opening minutes of tonight’s gig ‘cos we were drinking at the press launch of a cocktail bar (that much is true). However, following The Orb’s recent team-up with Lee “Scratch” Perry, going back on the Red Stripe on arrival seems totally apt. Perry’s not here, nor is usual Orb collaborator Thomas Fehlmann, with Paterson joined instead by wild-haired, long-time associate Fil Le Gonidec.
Unsurprisingly for a band who famously sat down and played chess on Top Of The Pops, tonight isn’t so much about physical performance. Paterson and Le Gonidec share a desk of laptops, CD decks and mixers stage-front. A green vinyl 12” (probably of The Orb’s current LP with Perry) rests mostly untouched on a turntable while an ever-changing display of films and graphics unspools on the screen behind.
The two-hour set is one long mixing masterclass, classic tracks like ‘Perpetual Dawn’ and a much-edited ‘Blue Room’ blended into sequences that foreground The Orb’s deep interest in dub as the heavier beats forge a connection with the clubbers at their feet. Paterson’s crate-digging humour sees him dropping in familiar samples from unfamiliar names (Sunforest, Napoleon XIV) before we reach the epic ambient overture ‘A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld’, the suite that soundtracked a thousand comedowns. As the sun sets on the tower blocks behind them, they send us on our way with ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ floating in the air. You’re going home in a cosmic ambience, as someone once said. Rapturous. Orblivious.
Haunt, Thursday 10th October 2013
Words by Stuart Huggett
Photos by Ashley Laurence