The group was formed in 1988 by Dr. Alex Paterson (full name Duncan Robert Alex Paterson) and Jimmy Cauty (one half of The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu and later The KLF). The Orb’s first release was the acid house anthem “Tripping on Sunshine”.
In May 1989, The Orb released the “Kiss EP”, which was heavily influenced by New York’s KISS FM. Paterson began DJing around London, England at this time when he met Paul Oakenfold. At Oakenfold’s behest, Paterson began DJing at Land of Oz, the chill-out room at Heaven.
Paterson mixed samples of BBC nature recordings, NASA space broadcasts and everything in between into the music of ambient pioneers such as Brian Eno. Around this time, Paterson met Steve Hillage and Hillage later contributed guitar to the Orb’s “Blue Room” single. In return Paterson worked on Hillage’s System 7 project.
In October 1989 The Orb released the 22-minute single “A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld”, which contains large chunks of Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You”. The single managed to reach the lower end of the UK chart. Although Paterson and Cauty had been working on a debut album, the two split in April 1990. Cauty removed Paterson’s contributions to the album and released the remainder as “Space”.
Killing Joke’s Youth, who’d recently found dancefloor success with Blue Pearl assisted with the single “Little Fluffy Clouds”, but existing commitments made it impossible for him to be anything more than a part-time member. In his place, Paterson recruited Kris Weston (aka Thrash), a young studio engineer who had worked on “Little Fluffy Clouds” and recently left Fortran 5.
In April, 1991, The Orb’s debut album, “Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld” was released in the United Kingdom to critical acclaim. The double-album obtained a top 30 placing in the UK.
“U.F.Orb” was released in July, 1992. It featured the 39 minute 59 second “Blue Room” which was their third single to reach the UK charts, although the album version was only 17 minutes long. Early pressings of the album were available in three differently coloured sealed plastic packs (black (10,000) and blue (5,000) in the UK and green (1,000) in the US) containing an additional disc with the soundtrack from Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (Patterns & Textures edition), a mail order only long form video released by the Orb.
During 1993 and 1994 The Orb were dismayed by Big Life’s intention to re-issue some of the Orb’s earlier material. As a result, Paterson and Thrash opted out of their contract and Paterson signed an international deal with Chris Blackwell’s Island Records. The double-album “Live ‘93” soon followed. It was a mix of recordings made in Glastonbury, Copenhagen and Tokyo. The album’s credits included, Simon Phillips, Nick Burton, Kris Weston, Fluff and of course Paterson.
In June, 1994, they released their first studio album for Island, “Pomme Fritz (The Orb’s Little Album)”. The album reached number six on the UK, but critics hated it, even comparing Paterson to Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett.
August, 1994 saw the release of a collaboration between Robert Fripp, Paterson, Weston, and Thomas Fehlmann, hence the name FFWD or Fripp, Fehlmann, Weston and Duncan. Weston’s input was already diminishing by this time and following the release of FFWD, he finally parted company with Paterson. He was replaced by Thomas Fehlmann.
“Orbus Terrarum” was released in March, 1995. In February, 1997, following an ambitious world tour, they released “Orblivion”.
The retrospective “U.F.OFF” came in October, 1998 and was initially available in a Limited Edition double CD.
“Cydonia”, although recorded in 1999, was delayed by Island until its release in February, 2001. Several different versions of the album were leaked on the Net some time before the official release.
The 2004 released album “Bicycles & Tricycles” strongly departed from their earlier ambient sound, and incorporated strong hip-hop influenced rhythms, including rap on one of the tracks.
In 2005 The Orb released a new studio album, “Okie Dokie It’s The Orb on Kompakt”, which focused heavily on the microhouse and pop ambient sounds that the Kompakt label is well known for.
2005 also saw the release of “Orbsessions Volume 1”, which was an album of rarities from throughout The Orbs’ career.
Sadly, Andy Hughes, long-time mixer and producer of many of The Orb’s works, passed away on June 12 2009, following a ‘short illness’.
Edited by jarvik on 25 Jun 2012, 22:59
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