The Orb - "Baghdad Batteries
(Malicious Damage MD-645 2009)
From Aural Innovations April 2010 update
Some of the pop tunes that the Orb have turned their hands to this century have proven to be some of their greatest work and I hope they continue to explore that potential. Here however, Fehlman rejoins Patterson for a solid outing of their more ambient-space style. Still creating moods that are simultaneously freaky and beautiful..."Chocolate Fingers": that incomparable bass sound - so deep, warm, resonating, penetrating...hazy washes, statics, the patented flange/wah fx, surreal muffled water sounds, freaky guitar/bass warpage nearly beyond recognition...deep-space chill-outs. Similar in style at times to the Okie Dokie album, but far better, and longer pieces, though still more concise than '90s stuff, nothing over 9 minutes. The title track hits some really gorgeous highs of melodious bliss..."Raven's Reprise": choral "aaahhhhhh"s inevitably harken back to classic Orbstandards of old (conceptual continuity), a lovely piece constructed out of manipulated organ sequencing. Voice sampling has always been a strength, but kept to a minimum on this album...unobtrusive techno-beats that propel the vessel into far-out ultraworlds...at times recalling U.F.Orb..."Super Soakers": sounds like it samples a decades-old ska song, groovy drop-outs using brief silences to a great effect that can only be achieved electronically...would have actually preferred that they draw this part out more, as opposed to the lite techno-track that forms the basis of the rest of the piece...(the sort of thing they can do in their sleep, and yet it's still better than what most purveyors of space-techno would normally produce in a waking state). "Woodlarking" is mesmerizing, opening with a welcome voice sample that sounds like an extraction from the same source as that of a past collaboration with Meat Beat Manifesto...tinkering around in a pleasant assortment of sounds, one of which is a cartoonishly twee Hammond that they've revealed fondness for in the past..."OOPA": the most delightfully bizarro piece, percolating with farting, bubbling, burning sounds, eventually moving on to a wacky voice sample which morphs eerily into a fading warble...so absurd, alien and strange...and yet so right.
Well, if you're not stuck on the idea that these blokes lost it after the so-called golden age of those first few albums, you'll be open to enjoying the timeless and genius music that the Orb have continued to produce with each of their releases, and while the albums of this century have indeed included their share of pap (as did earlier releases, perhaps to a lesser extent), Baghdad Batteries might indeed be their most consistent release since who knows when. True, another appreciated quality of past albums that this one lacks is the very natural sounding combination of disparate elements (i.e. the huge beautiful mess of "Towers of Dub": harmonica and film samples set to multi-layered electro-dub-rhythms), but it's hardly missed as this purer style still succeeds on its own. Orbgasmic!
For more information you can visit The Orb web site at: http://www.maliciousdamage.biz/theorb.html
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg