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Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
The Orb
Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
Genres: Dance & Electronic, World Music
  •  Track Listings (5) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (5) - Disc #2

The first Orb album was entirely new when it appeared: a low-key dance record, with echoes and swells more than up-front tunes, stoner-level dub bass, and all sorts of samples and sounds--seagulls, film clips, astronaut v...  more »


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The first Orb album was entirely new when it appeared: a low-key dance record, with echoes and swells more than up-front tunes, stoner-level dub bass, and all sorts of samples and sounds--seagulls, film clips, astronaut voices, bits of disco--fluttering through the mix like hallucinations. Essentially a techno album for tired dancers, it's held up nicely over time, thanks to its intricate, dreamy sonics. Beyond the classic "Little Fluffy Clouds"--a set of interlocking synth hooks and loping percussion, held together by a cut-up sample of Rickie Lee Jones talking about the skies of her youth--there are lots of mellow delights here, particularly the blissful reggae groove "Perpetual Dawn." --Douglas Wolk

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Interstellar overdrive
loteq | Regensburg | 03/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Orb's first album provided a blueprint for the 'electronic listening music' of the early-'90s, cultivated by artists like Autechre and The Black Dog, and labels like Warp and Swim. Still, you won't believe it how much the sound of this album is inspired by '70s space rockers like Pink Floyd, Gong, and Steve Hillage. And indeed, The Orb themselves have always claimed that they were big fans of '70s progressive rock music. Even "Little fluffy clouds", the Orb's best-known track and the only pop song of this album, is actually a cover version of "Counterpoint", a tune by avantgarde composer Steve Reich. Typical for ambient records, there are occasional dull spots on this two-disc set, but you shouldn't forget that ambient music originally had been designed as background music. "The Orb's adventures.." virtually pioneered the concept of applying the aesthetics of '70s ambience to '90s techno with all its technical possibilities like sound sampling, sequencing, and processing. And for me, the 18 1/2-minute mega-piece "A huge ever.." (there's even a longer version available on the "Peel Sessions" CD) is still the embodiment of great, well-thought, and refreshing trance music. Admittedly, if you want to have lush melodies and clubby rhythms in your ambient music, I'd recommend you to buy Autechre's "Incunabula" or Aphex Twin's "Selected Ambient Works 1" instead. If you're keen on disturbing, hyperactive ambient soundscapes, check out releases by Main ("Hz", "Firmament II")."
A good album from electronica's best days.
Angry Mofo | 07/07/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The Orb weren't the first techno band, but they were techno's first major artistic success. Their predecessors confined themselves to the dancefloor, and released their work on the twelve-inch singles most suitable for that realm. The Orb, however, adopted rock's emphasis on the album as one cohesive statement, a collection of songs united by common themes. In fact, Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, their 1991 debut, is a double album running for almost two hours.The Orb were not a musically inventive band. The beats on this album are pretty pedestrian, and the melodies are incompetently minimal, three or four notes apiece at best. Even the production sounds kind of grainy. However, The Orb had excellent dramatic instincts. They made use of a large collection of samples, lacing their simple rhythm tracks with bits of classical music, monologues in foreign languages, rushing waterfalls, ringing church bells, and other sundry snippets of sound, to create the appearance of a detailed and enigmatic sonic world. They also knew when to restrain themselves and ease on the percussion, to establish moods and themes instead of trying to get by on pure pounding. Lastly, they understood the limitations of their production, and tried to make it sound organic, with shambling live-sounding drums, while their contemporaries were deliberately trying to sound artificial. The Orb even used a few actual guitars, rarely found in early electronica.This zesty brew made for quite a few good tracks. "Little Fluffy Clouds," the first and shortest song on the album, shows just how important samples were in Orb tracks. The song has a pretty standard house beat set to a sample from the TV show Reading Rainbow of someone reminiscing about her childhood. A low-key keyboard melody creeps in, and suddenly, the song becomes a compelling story about how "we lived in Arizona, and the skies always had little fluffy clouds...the sunsets were...purple, and red, and yellow, and the clouds would catch on don't see that here, but you might still see them in the desert."Electronica owes a lot to reggae, more specifically to the "dub" production techniques pioneered by reggae artists. In the liner notes to this album, Orb frontman and brave physician Dr. Alex Paterson thanks reggae legend Burning Spear, and on "Perpetual Dawn," the track that opens disc two, the Jamaican connection is made clear by one of those good-time staccato reggae guitars playing that good-time reggae rhythm. There's not much more to say there, but it is the album's most instantly memorable and catchy moment. "Spanish Castles In Space," the track that closes disc one, is the Orb at their most relaxed, featuring some acoustic strumming and watery effects in waltz-time, with no beats. As with most Orb tracks, this one's musical core is weak, but it manages to create a pleasant feel that's quite nice to just drift to. "Into The Fourth Dimension" sounds better than it probably should, through judicious use of one sample of a choir singing "Miserere" and another of a lovely violin solo from classical music.The last track on the album is a nineteen-minute monstrosity with the charming title, "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld." The music in this track, however, has little to do with brains or ruling, but evokes pristine scenes from nature with great clarity. One time, it so happened that I walked on a grassy, rocky shore by a sea. There were forests on both sides of me, rock formations behind me, endless water ahead of me, and not a soul in sight. So, I reclined on the grass and spent some time watching the waves, underneath a completely white sky. This is exactly the scene embodied by this track; nearly beatless, it's built around a clean, calm, majestic sounding keyboard melody, played relentlessly for all nineteen minutes, but gliding in and out of different keys from time to time, while some kind of male choir sings in the background. Detail is added by the sound of rushing water, shifts in volume, and numerous samples. The track derives some immediacy from being a live recording, all nineteen minutes of it. It's certainly a great way to end.The success of this album basically kick-started the "electronica revolution" of the early nineties. Unfortunately, it did The Orb little good. After releasing another album in 1992, they got mired in label troubles for three years, and in that time, the electronica crown had been seized forever by bands like Underworld and Orbital. Worse, those bands were better producers and musicians than The Orb, so even before the advent of jungle, Paterson and company's sound became out of step. They tried to adapt to the changing times, but fickle fortune no longer favoured them, so this album remains their biggest contribution to music. Though it contains two or three uninspiring tracks, its best parts have aged pretty well. Anyone with an interest in electronica wouldn't do badly to get it."
littleoldme | Fort Collins, CO United States | 09/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)

"One of the two essential Orb albums (along with "U.F. Orb"). Interestingly enough, this release probably has the most extreme examples of the Orb's sound on it. "Little Fluffy Clouds" is the most pop-oriented and dancefloor friendly thing they've ever done, and it's outstanding. "Perpetual Dawn" pushes the dub influence in much of their work to the max, making for a wild, trippy bit of ambient. Finally, "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre of the Ultraworld" is so relaxed and surreal - it's my personal favorite Orb song of all time. Further, "Spanish Castles In Space" is a great track in the vein of "A Huge...", and "Into The Fourth Dimension" may be a transitional song, but it's a great one. The album has a much larger amount of filler than "U.F. Orb", making it the lesser album in my opinion, but this is still essential listening. And it has some of the finest moments in ambient history - how can you go wrong?"