The Orb’s 15th album No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds, released 27 years after their first, does not start as it means to go on.
A bright, poppy synth meets dubstep-inspired bass for the misleadingly named opening track The End Of The End, sounding very unlike what we’ve become accustomed to from the ambient collective. However, halfway through the song takes a turn into more traditional dub, an influence that has permeated through their long discography and is present on many other tracks.
No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds is a mixed bag, mainly because it spends half the time trying to recapture the eccentrically psychedelic atmosphere of The Orb’s early ’90s output and the other breaking new ground.
The latter produces more interesting results, with Wolfbane’s hip-hop beats taking the listener through a whole suite of rap styles, and Doughnuts Forever serving syrupy strings over a vintage boom-bap beat. Tracks like Pillow Fight @ Shag Mountain and Other Blue Worlds, however, feel a little under-powered in their nostalgia for the glory days of The Orb, as well as being rather forgettable.
Part of the appeal of releases like The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld and U.F.Orb is a feeling of spontaneity in the tracks, the arrangements and structures beholden to nothing and no-one. Closing track Soul Planet comes closest to recreating that vibe, with a housey beat that emerges from a beatless soundscape and fades out for an extended coda of low rumbling and layered samples.
The Orb have long made a virtue out of following their own path, and there are still times in No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds where this pays dividends, but there are also sections where they merely retread old ground with diminishing returns, making this an only half-satisfying LP.