The Orb review: elements of the track flowed in and out of a recognisable but inventive remix of the ambient classic

PUBLISHED: 17:34 26 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:17 27 June 2019

The Orb at Epic Studios. Picture: Patrick Widdess

The Orb at Epic Studios. Picture: Patrick Widdess

Patrick Widdess

Electronic pioneers The Orb delivered an unpredictable set as they brought their 30th anniversary tour to Epic Studios on June 21.

The Orb at Epic Studios. Picture: Patrick WiddessThe Orb at Epic Studios. Picture: Patrick Widdess

As the room filled founding member Dr Alex Paterson was already on stage playing a warm-up DJ set. The band are known for their visuals as much as their music but a row of bars across the front of the booth made it look more like a prison watch tower.

When Paterson was joined by current collaborator Michael Rendall for the main set the bars lit up in sync with the backdrop framing the performers in a 3D light show. A variety of imagery ranging from psychedelic animations to archive photos of the band was projected onto two screens either side of the stage and a couple globes, which hovered like death stars during the spaced out opener.

The show was billed as a greatest hits set but this hardly fits the sprawling experimental compositions that make up most of the band's prolific back catalogue. The duo layered up samples drawn from myriad sources mangled beyond recognition in pieces which blended techno, dub, ambient, classical, reggae and a host of other genres and sub genres. It was hard to recognise even the most famous tracks as they were torn apart and rebuilt. The harmonica sample from Little Fluffy Clouds wafted in early on in the set but the rest of the track never materialised. The main components of Perpetual Dawn were virtually obliterated in a heavy dub-reggae remix with a novelty pop interlude. This track suffered from repeated botched segues as Paterson sent mismatched beats and samples crashing into each other. Sometimes experiments work and sometimes they don't.

Later tracks were more familiar. Rush Hill Road featuring Hollie Cook from latest album No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds was played back virtually unadulterated with Paterson adding little beyond touches of reverb to this relatively conventional reggae-infused dance track. A rendition of A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain… became increasingly chaotic as Paterson cut in and out of the main refrain and threw in bone-shaking bursts of bass.

Little Fluffy Clouds emerged fully formed to close the set and showed the band at their best. The main elements of the track flowed in and out of a recognisable but inventive remix of the ambient classic which incorporated all manner of other samples, a Beach Boys vocal being one of most incongruous and easy to identify.

When juggling so many musical ingredients the results are sure to be either sublime or shambolic. There were moments of both during the night but on the home stretch the Doctor pulled it off in style!

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