The Orb was founded at the end of the eighties by Alex Paterson and Martin Glover, also known as Youth. Youth played the bass in Killing Joke for a while and Paterson was a roady for that band. They got interested in the acid house music that was emerging at the time. In the late eighties Paterson was working as a DJ and at some point he got the idea to combine electronic rhythms with the psychedelic music of the early seventies, music that was ignored or even ridiculed then. Not only The Orb became one of the sensations of the early nineties, but they also boosted a revival of seventies psychedelic music and suddenly bands like Gong, Hawkwind and Faust where discovered by a new generation.
Also Pink Floyd was a major influence for The Orb. As a tribute to Floyd, the inside cover of their first album Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, has a picture of the famous Battersea Power Station - the one with the flying pig - that once was on the cover of the Pink Floyd-album Animals (1977). Both The Orb and Pink Floyd were pioneers in working with sound effects in their music. Even though they are from a different generation, the collaboration between The Orb and Pink Floyd-guitarist David Gilmour is quite natural. It started in fact as a charity project where they were working together on Graham Nash's Chicago. They were so energized by it that they eventually recorded an entire album.
Fans of David Gilmour, who like his complex guitar solos on the many Pink Floyd-albums, will probably be slightly disappointed with this album. He plays electric and acoustic guitars, sometimes sliding and sometimes melodic. But overall his playing is very laid-back and relaxed. However, it isn't a typical Orb-album either. It reminds me very much of another classic album from the early nineties: Chill Out by The KLF. The album contains two tracks that are built up of smaller pieces. Some are ambient; others are rhythmic. The melodic parts drift away and then come back again in a slightly different form. This makes it almost like an organic piece of work. During the entire album electronic sounds and human voices drift on and off. So Metallic Spheres doesn't contain songs that have an intro, a centre piece and an outtro. The entire album is a sonic trip, and the result of a fruitful collaboration. One plus one sometimes makes three.
The album is available as a regular CD, as an LP and also as a special edition double-CD. The bonus disc contains the same music, in a three-dimensional sound mix. It's not a surround sound, but regular stereo that will play in any normal CD- player. The 3D-effect can be heard best while using headphones.
****+ Erik Gibbels (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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