The Orb and David Gilmour, two great tastes that taste great together.....
If you grew up listening to Pink Floyd or stealing your dad's Pink Floyd records like I did then you know the gigantic footprint that they left -and are still leaving- on the music industry. Spanning over decades, it is safe to say they have amassed an army of fans and influenced many composers and musicians as well, one of those being LX Patterson of The Orb. Starting out as DJs in the late 80s, The Orb's debut album Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld was released in 1991 and was a 2xLP with a huge nod in the direction of Floyd's non-compromise, art-driven approach to the industry. With songs lasting over 10 minutes, sparse vocals, odd intros, and a single called 'A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld' which despite being 22 minutes long still reached #78 on the British singles chart, The Orb was as unconventional and hard to define as the mighty Pink Floyd had been many years before. Despite being marketed as house/rave music, the Orb have always flown the ambient banner with pride and have had a tendency to drift into the Space-Prog area that enthralls and captivates not only the sci-fi enthusiasts of the moment, but also the children of the 70s whose blacklight upbringing and laser show ticket stub collections were a perfect match to the Orb's musical journeys. From the interstellar 'Blue Room' off 1992's U.F.Orb album to the double LIVE 93 album that featured a stuffed sheep floating over a power station on the cover, it is easy to see that The Orb was cut from the very same cloth as Floyd, but was just separated by a few years and a few advances in music technology.
Fast-forward to 2010 when all the musical planets aligned over a studio jam session between LX and David to create what would become Metallic Spheres, a fantastic blending of two monoliths of ambient space rock/dance that is nothing short of what both sets of fans were expecting...something wonderful.
The album is split between two separate continuous pieces, each with five "movements" contained within. A "Metallic" side, and "Spheres" side, if you will, with the Metallic side being a bit more guitar-heavy and bringing to mind touches of "Echos," while the Spheres side is classic Orb where dub style beats and bass are married with samples, string arrangements and what can only be described as the space-blues guitar work of David. Though split into two halves, the entirety of this record seems to build upon itself non-stop, and after each full listen the ears pick up something new in the layers every time, which has become a signature of The Orb sound over the years. Gilmour sweeps in and out on guitar, infusing melodic runs like they belonged there all along and even contributes a vocal nod to the shape of the universe today with the statement, "If you believe in justice, if you believe in freedom; stand up for human rights, and a world we can believe in. Open up your door." Albums such as this usually get lumped in with the piles of ambient compositions you find at your local store or online site, but in this case it is far from that. Sure, it is lush and hypnotic and more about the composition than the song, but on top of it all it is immersive, a journey plotted out for those that enjoy spending an hour losing themselves in a focused vision of two camps of pioneers poised on the edge of the universe and then stepping beyond that holding your ear's hand. With its rolling hills and valleys of sound weaving between cloud tops and grounded steel lap guitars, it's an album designed to take you somewhere as you sit between the two sides of your headphones. Fans of The Orb have been waiting for this collaboration for years and will not be disappointed, but in the same sense I think fans of Pink Floyd will enjoy this just the same considering the uncompromising artistic value of both camps involved. Both LX and David have spent years fighting record companies to keep their visions clear between themselves and their fans, and in this release they were free to do so with the end result being nothing short of amazing. So if your surroundings are a bit "square" then let your Library card be your ticket and board the Metallic Spheres to roll off to wherever it may take you between your own two ears.