Last year, legendary IDM duo The Orb teamed up with a different kind of dance music legend, Jamaican dub reggae producer Lee “Scratch” Perry, to make The Orbserver In The Star House. Now, together, they release More Tales From The Orbservatory, additional tracks from the unlikely pair’s recording session. While most “more” albums – or at least those that are additions from a recording session whose preselected best tracks have already appeared on the first release – often come across as a collection of throwaway tracks or B-sides at best, More Tales From The Orbservatory at least contains a few surprises.
Opener Fussball is a catchy, inspirational electronic Afropop nugget, as Perry repeats the lines “kick the ball!” and “win the game!” over a repetitive, bass-heavy beat. At the same time, Fussball certainly sounds like Orb members Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann taking samples and inspiration from minimal resources, which hinders them on Fussball. In other words, while Fussball is a good track, more dynamism and variety could have made it a standout. Similarly, second track Africa features less inspirational talk from Perry but is equally stuck: the interplay between beats, bass, synth and echoey vocals, or Perry giving (laughable) lessons on how to plant seeds, creates a cohesive track, but the track could have benefitted from further electronic flourishes. And indeed, while Perry is a dub pioneer, it’s hard to listen to him seriously, even if you’re not supposed to take anything he says seriously, when he says, “I wanna smell your nose” on the cacophonous Tight Interlude.
Thankfully, the second half of More Tales From The Orbservatory improves and adds some diversity to a lazy aesthetic. The absolute standout track on the album is the clubby Making Love In Dub, as delayed synths mesh seamlessly with Perry’s voice, and the track builds into a whole that finally has enough supplemental elements that are not distracting but add to the track’s depth (the track has enough bowl-and-water sounds to be a Caribou offcut). By the time it hits its groove, you don’t mind that it stays there: it seems like it’s supposed to mirror a lovemaking session. With one minute left, Making Love In Dub slowly fades, becomes slower paced, and ultimately disappears; you’ve become fully satisfied.
Similarly, while No Ice Age isn’t as sultry as Making Love In Dub, like some of the best Caribou tracks it teases climax; even if the songs never actually reach a climax on More Tales From The Orbservatory, at least No Ice Age has the decency to suggest one might happen, as opposed to the stoic tracks on the album’s first half that self-consciously stick to their minimal resources. More Tales From The Orbservatory finally realizes its sexual/dance potential in its second half, but you’ve pretty much moved on to something completely different by track three.
More Tales From The Orbservatory’s proper closer (the technical second half of the album consists of instrumentals of every track but Tight Interlude) Don’t Rush I unfortunately suffers from a similar lack of livelihood as the first three tracks. The music takes the song’s title a little too literally: it’s as if two clashing electronic pioneers are saying, “Let’s not rush to come to a compromise about what this might sound like”. Don’t Rush I exemplifies what’s wrong with both of The Orb and Perry’s releases: The Orb’s lazy beats count too much on Perry’s meaningless, abstract ruminations, or Perryisms, to add some sort of absurdist (anti-) meaning to a (mostly) boring collection of songs.