Switched On – The Orb: Prism (Cooking Vinyl)

by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

British electronic artists are known for their staying power. Few are more durable than The Orb, however, with Alex Paterson’s band having gone through so many different membership connotations since their formation in 1987.

These days the outlook is relatively settled, as the duo – Paterson and Michael Rendall – have now completed three albums together, bringing the studio album count to 18.

There are plenty of guests adorning Prism, with its artwork homage to Pink Floyd, intentionally or not marking the 50th anniversary of Dark Side Of The Moon.

What’s the music like?

If you know The Orb from the 1990s, the musical content of Prism will come as little surprise. And yet Paterson and Rendall have made an album full of very fresh sounding music, and any familiar formulas that might be used are given the freshest coat of paint.

There are some explicit musical homages made throughout the record. H.O.M.E. (High Orbs Mini Earths) makes direct reference to Mr Fingers’ Can You Feel It in its celebration of Chicago house music, while Living In Recycled Times follows the promise of its title by matching the key, tempo and mood of Adam F’s Circles and Alex Reece’s Feel The Sunshine, both prominent drum ‘n’ bass tunes in the mid-1990s.

These are two excellent tracks, but the pure reggae contributions are best of all. A Ghetto Love Story uses Eric Von Skywalker to bring the sunshine, a great piece of Brixton committed to record – while Tiger makes a powerful impact, its dedication to Paterson’s son and late brother made meaningful in music of strong emotion.

More traditional ambient fayre can be found elsewhere, with the heat-soaked Picking Tea Leaves And Chasing Butterflies a real gem in its use of distant trumpet fanfares and chugging foreground beats.

Does it all work?

It does. Even though Paterson can make this sort of album in his sleep, he shows what a strong instinct he has for structure. Prism works beautifully as a single listen, and although there are a few slightly derivative tracks they all carry the distinctive Orb imprint.

Is it recommended?

Heartily. The Orb have a remarkably consistent discography, but Prism is one of their very best.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.