THE ORB: Baghdad Batteries: Orbsessions Vol. 3 – An Illustrated Handbook With Stereo Sound (Malicious Damage)
Posted on Aug 19th 2009 11:32 pm
Baghdad Batteries: Orbsessions Vol. 3 – An Illustrated Handbook With Stereo Sound
Malicious Damage 2009
11 Tracks. 53mins33secs
Always a fluid project, The Orb, led by former Killing Joke roadie Alex Paterson, has gone through many incarnations over the years. Twenty years on from the seminal A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld EP, The Orb are a pretty steady presence on the electronic stage, and has shown no sign of slowing down, the stream of releases remaining pretty constant through the last two decades. The band was however victim of a steady decline during the late nineties and early noughties, culminating with the somewhat lacklustre Cydonia and Bicycles And Tricycles albums. Since, Paterson and long term collaborator Thomas Fehlmann have injected some new life as The Orb joined for a moment the excellent Kompakt imprint and released a handful of EPs, followed by the excellent Okie Dokie, It’s The Orb On Kompakt album in 2005, while Malicious Damage released the first in a program of releases.
The first two in the Orbsessions triptych collected tracks culled from Alex Paterson’s seemingly extensive vaults, exposing some previously unreleased material recorded with some of his regular contributors. For this last output however, Paterson teamed up once again with ‘professor’ Thomas Fehlmann and devised a follow up to Okie Dokie, partly returning to the minimal dubby techno they for the first deployed in full on that album. Here though, the emphasis is less on linear driving beats and slicing bass lines. Instead, the pair wrap these in voluptuous evolutive liquid soundscapes and grooves to create a series of nuanced pieces, some resolutely inhabited by Fehlmann’s own elegant techno (Styrofoam Meltdown, Dolly Unit, Suburban Smog), others finding their roots in a much more traditional Orb ambient ground. Chocolate Fingers, Super Soaker or Orban Tumbleweed are all infused with various strengths of dub, while Baghdad Batteries, Raven’s Surprise or Pebbles appear as floating pieces built upon dense layers of clustered sounds, with no beat as such to give any of these a formal structure, emulating in parts some of Brian Eno’s most reflective work, but The Orb’s underlying club connection means that, even in their calmest incarnations, these tracks are propelled by deep fluid bass lines undercurrents.
Named after a 2000 years old jar found by German archaeologist Wilhelm Konig in a small village near Baghdad in 1938, thought to be the oldest form of electric battery known, Baghdad Batteries also serves as the soundtrack to Werner Boote’s recent documentary Plastic Planet. The Orb’s naturally evocative and often cinematic universe is rendered particularly well here, especially since, unlike some of the band’s more recent work, Baghdad Batteries is entirely instrumental. This leaves space for the music to fill, and allows for finely detailed tone relief, giving some of these tracks impressive depth. This is particularly the case on the title track and later on the short Pebbles, while Raven’s Reprise, a track dedicated to Killing Joke bassist Paul Raven, who died two years ago, Suburban Smog or OOPA appear more ambitious and epic, their respective course taking a number of unexpected turns along the way.
While The Orb have, over the years, counted many contributors, Alex Paterson has found in Thomas Fehlmann has been a pretty consistent, and it is as a duo that they have, with Okie Dokie and the associated Kompakt EPs, revived a project that had found itself flagging quite badly less than a decade ago. While Baghdad Batteries doesn’t quite match the flawless Okie Dokie, it proves a much more enticing and rewarding release than The Dream, Paterson’s collaboration with Youth released last year. Both Paterson and Fehlmann have found a renewed energy and have channelled it into music that has evolved a fair bit from the band’s original outputs but is once again fuelled by its primal drive.
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