Perpetual Dawn: The Orb Has Arrived at Last!

It was Pledgemusic’s announcement which first alerted me to the monumental event which was pending in the summer of 2016. The Pledgemusic website reported that:

“On Friday 29th July 2016, electronic titans The Orb will perform their seminal debut album ‘Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’ in full for the first time ever, to mark its 25th anniversary.

For this very special sliver jubilee gig, Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann will be joined on stage by the original cast of collaborators who helped create the magic on this influential, era-defining milestone, plus a special punk icon whose music heavily influenced The Orb.

Paul Cook of Sex Pistols fame will guest on drums and fellow punk legend, original Orb member and ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ co-writer Youth will join on bass.

Psychedelic-electronic-prog heroes Steve Hillage and partner Miquette Giraudy co-wrote ‘Supernova’ and ‘Backside Of The Moon’, and will also bring their mythical shamanistic magic to this special show.

If all that wasn’t coup enough fellow ‘Ultraworld’ contributors Andy Falconer, Tom Green and Hugh Vickers will also guest, whilst original Orb lighting wizard David Herman will transform Electric Brixton into a vintage fractal technical wonderland.

Amidst the late 80s fervor of acid house The Orb explored their own meandering tangent, drawing on hip hop sample culture, krautrock, kosmische, ambience and a wealth of unusual and unlikely sound sources. In doing so they pioneered a more horizontally-inclined alternative to the jacking trax emanating from discerning nightclubs’ main rooms.

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Following a limited number of prototype 12”s from early pre-Orb incarnations, ‘Ultraworld’ was The Orb’s first fully formed, double album realization of the sonic sculpture they’d been finessing, amidst a punk-schooled period of fertile, no-rules creativity.

The album was a critical and chart smash that soundtracked a generation. It still sounds amazing today and its influence on subsequent decades of dance music is immeasurable.”

It had already been a thrilling year – The Avalanches reissued their album, Since I Left You in the UK and Europe to the delight of fans the world over, the Ann Arbor label, Ghostly International reissued Telefon Tel Aviv’s ambient glitch epic Fahrenheit Fair Enough on sky blue wax, John Carpenter issued the second volume of his Lost Themes collection, electronic music veterans, Underworld released Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future to great critical acclaim, proving they still have every ounce of their musical prowess, Klaus Schulze and the late Pete Namlook released a box set of the first four volumes of their ambient Dark Side of the Moog series, and Brian Eno outdid himself for the hundredth time with the ethereal and meditative album, The Ship which had the astonishing ability to stop time with each play.

But it was the anticipation of this reunion of the icons of ambient house which captivated me for the remainder of the year. Sadly, there were delays with the production of the vinyl release. Many, many months passed with infrequent updates from the Live Here Now team. Eventually, the 3CD+DVD edition arrived in the States, but it was the triple blue vinyl edition I was really waiting to get my hand on. Thankfully, today – May 12, 2017 the long-awaited package arrived from the UK.

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The Orb’s Further Adventures Live 2016 was available exclusively from PledgeMusic or at The Orb show at the Royal Festival Hall in London on the 21st of April 2017. The CD edition also features interviews with Alex, Thomas, Youth, Paul Cook, Steve Hillage & Miquette Giraudy, all of whom participated in the event.

The 180g bright blue discs are housed in a heavy triple-gatefold jacket matching that of the CD+DVD release. The packaging and albums are of excellent quality all throughout, making this set well worth the wait.

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This is a wonderful treasure for any fan of The Orb, of chillout music, and for anyone who spent their college days on the backside of the moon. An exciting performance, expertly captured and mastered, documenting a real milestone event for all those involved.

If you buy only one tripped-out exclusive dub-inspired space music anniversary concert album reuniting a generation of the gods of ambient house this century… make it this one.

The sound of a kick drum… miles away… buried deep within the earth.

Wolfgang Voigt’s Gas Box 10LP +4CD set has just arrived. Of Voigt’s countless one-off side project monikers, it is his work as Gas which has gained the most critical acclaim. And for good reason – this is some of the finest dark ambient minimal techno you could ever hope to find. And after sixteen years of various abridged and modified reissues, Voigt has presented the albums Zauberberg, Königsforst, and Pop in their entirety, along with a bonus disc featuring “Tal 90”, (previously released in Various – Pop Ambient 2002) and “Oktember B” from the Oktember EP from 1999.

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The set is housed in a sturdy slipcase with embossed jackets for each release. The discs are contained in glossy black paper sleeves with GAS logo printed on both sides. The accompanying hardcover 12″ x 12″ art book with digital images of the Königsforst also contains four CDs of the music from the set.

Inspired by Voigt’s youthful LSD experiences in the Königsforst (a German forest situated near his hometown of Köln), served as the inspiration behind these releases. Voigt claimed that he wanted to “bring the forest to the disco, or vice-versa”.

Wikipedia offers an excellent description of the Gas sound:

Each album consisting of several long tracks of dense, hypnotic, atmospheric sound. All Gas material shares a characteristic sound, consisting of an ambient wash of drones and loops, usually accompanied by a repetitive four-on-the-floor kick drum underneath the multiple layers of music. Occasionally a song will just drift on its own ambience.

Indeed, most of the time there is no clear musical progression in a Gas track, as Voigt seems to be more interested in exploring depth of the stereo field, utilizing subtle shifts in sound. Because music under the Gas alias lacks any trace of orthodox melody or chord change many would not describe it as musical. However, the sources of Voigt’s samples are often of musical origin, encapsulating “old pop record stuff” as well as classical music such as Richard Wagner and Arnold Schoenberg.

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It also notes that critics have described Gas music as, “similar to hearing a band playing very far away, underwater, or from behind walls.” By any measure, this is a milestone ambient box set and an essential piece of any ambient record collection.

Daydreams of Exile – An Exploration of Dub Techno

This weekend’s musical exploration began, and it so often does, with a single catalyst. That agent was the arrival of the latest addition to The much-hailed KLF Recovered & Remastered series, titled The KLF Remix Project (Part One).  This limited edition promotional comp features an assortment of delicious deep cuts and rare and exclusive mixes breathing new life into the long-deleted KLF catalog.

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One of my favorite selections from the comp is a surprising remix of “Me Ru Con” – an acapella track from The Justified Ancients Of Mu Mu’s 1987 What The Fuck’s Going On? LP.  This is the album The KLF are pictured burning on their follow-up album, Who Killed The Jams?  The Remix Project compilation presents Steve Rowlands’ “Me Ru Con (WTF Mix)” which transforms the unassuming and humble recording into an ethereal mix of radio signals, steel drums, and atmospheric beats.  The mix really gets you grooving and stirs all sorts of nostalgia for the legacy of the band.  If you have the opportunity, pick up this comp (as you should all titles from the series).  It does a fantastic job of filling the void left by the absence of the KLF.  And for a remix comp the collection functions extraordinarily well as a cohesive piece – consistent with all of the releases in this fantastic series.  The Remix album is packed with dark ambient dub and dub techno beats and fueled my aforementioned muse resulting in this weekend’s discoveries.

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Yearning for more dub techno greatness, I turned to my own archive and performed a search for genre values including “dub” + “techno”.  Surprisingly, there were a number of discographic archives from artists whose names were familiar but whose body of work had escaped me. Several online sources indicated that one of the resulting artists – Basic Channel were universally heralded as the founding fathers of the subgenre in Berlin in the early 1990s.  Basic Channel is Mark Ernestus and Moritz von Oswald, who appeared in my library under the alias, Rhythm & Sound.  Ernestus owns the Hard Wax store in Berlin and together, the duo has released numerous minimal dub 12-inch singles as Basic Channel, Cyrus, Round One/Two/Three/Four/Five and other aliases.  This is an ideal starting place to familiarize yourself with the genre.

Finnish electronic musician and producer Sasu Ripatti creates dub techno albums as Vladislav Delay, and interestingly intersected with Basic Channel member Moritz von Oswald where he provided percussion for a series of LPs released as The Moritz Von Oswald Trio between 2009 and 2012.

Oswald also collaborated briefly with Thomas Fehlmann as Schizophrenia.  They issued on lone split single – a self-titled track on the b-side of Sun Electric’s “Monolith” in 1995, but the track is a stand-out classic.  And listen close – the single samples Ash Ra Tempel’s “Sunrain”, the opening track from New Age of Earth from 1976.

Andy Stott is another dub techno artist from Manchester.  His work began around 2005, but his most critically-acclaimed recording is his 2012 LP,  Luxury Problems, receiving awards from both Resident Advisor and from Pitchfork Media.

Digging further into my library I discovered Canadian electronica musician Scott Montieth’s work as Deadbeat as well as his collaboration with Paul St. Hilaire from 2014 titled The Infinity Dub Sessions.

Also well-represented in my collection was Rod Modell and Stephen Hitchell’s catalog performing as cv313 on the Echospace label.  Modell’s solo project under the moniker Deepchord is also fantastic, particularly his releases from the series  of “Deepchord Presents Echospace” albums produced with  Souldubsounds owner Steven Hitchell (aka. Soultek).  Discogs notes that these recordings were “produced using nothing but vintage analog equipment, Roland Space Echo, Echoplex, Korg tape delay, vintage signal processors, noise generators, Sequential Circuits 8 bit samplers & numerous analog synthesizers” featuring an array of “sounds, static, tones and field recordings, including paranormal activity captured and recorded in Chicago & Detroit.”

Fluxion is another figure worth exploring in this category.  A pseudonym of Konstantinos Soublis (aka K. Soublis), Fluxion is an electronic music producer from Athens Greece.  The artist’s profile states that his music “has a characteristic of slowly evolving parts and contemplating elements which form lengthy musical pieces. His sounds are heavily processed to a point where the origin of a sound has little to do with the end result.”  – soundscapes in which a listener may lose him/herself.

Berlin artists Robert Henke and Gerhard Behles performing as Monolake are also noteworthy, if not for their catalog perhaps for the fact that together they founded the Ableton music software company, responsible for instrument and sample libraries used by countless musicians over the last 15 years.

One of the better-known German sound projects of the genre is Andy Mellwig and Thomas Köner’s catalog performing as Porter Ricks (whose name is based on a character from the series, Flipper).  Their sound is described as “a project that lies between clubs and art.”

In fact, Köner also works as a multimedia installation artist and gained critical acclaim for his digital opera, The Futurist Manifesto.

It’s really wonderful to have a music library as a resource for genre explorations like this.  And extra special thanks to those behind the KLF Recovered & Remastered series for the quality tunes which inspired this latest journey.

Playlist of the Day – Bilateral Motion: Abstract Minimal Ambient Dub Techno

Last night around 9pm I saw a post from a fellow member of a music community I follow.  It was a curious photo of an LP he was spinning at the moment with a minimal, text-only label which read, “Fluxion – Vibrant Forms.  A.”

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From the color of the label and the sans serif typeface I hypothesized that it was likely some sort of minimal electronic music, so I hopped over to Youtube and keyed it in.

I was delighted to find it was reminiscent of Wolfgang Voigt’s ambient, minimal techno under his legendary Gas moniker.  Whatever this was, I wanted to hear more!

A quick survey of the artist page on RYM revealed that it was filed under Dub Techno.  Where I’d previously exhausted all artists under the Ambient Dub heading (dominated primarily by The Orb), the highest-charting Dub Techno LPs were almost entirely new to me.  A few names were familiar, namely Woob and Yagya, but the rest were off my radar.  Jotting down the artists from the RYM top 10 LPs I went to work straight away.

The Artist Top 10 included:

  • Andy Stott
  • Deadbeat
  • Paul St. Hilaire
  • Deepchord Presents Echospace
  • Fluxion
  • Monolake
  • Porter Ricks
  • Purl
  • Woob
  • and Yagya

That evening I compiled 45 albums from these artists – a solid introductory set to the genre.

Now playing and listening intently to the new playlist – “Bilateral Motion: Abstract Minimal Ambient Dub Techno.  Fluxion’s Vibrant Forms I and II are excellent highlights from the set.

Big thanks to Vils M D for the inspiration!

Bilateral Motion: Abstract Minimal Ambient Dub Techno

The Orb Returns with Moonbuilding 2703 AD!

Ten years since their last album on the Kompakt label, The Orb returns to Kompakt this month with their 13th album, Moonbuilding 2703 AD.

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The Orb – Thomas Fehlmann and Alex Paterson

Moonbuilding is hypnotic, engaging, and endlessly fascinating.  There is an ever-shifting spatial environment as an assortment of deep beats, dub rhythms, and indescribable microtonal sounds traverse the space between your ears.  There are no hooks or identifiable refrains on which a more passive listener could settle comfortably.  Instead the record is a cerebral adventure, whether you choose to explore it consciously and critically or just lose yourself in the entrancing future-tribal magic.

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The pending Moonbuilding 2703 AD 

Like all of The Orb’s albums, it is thoughtful and reflective, but there are no peaceful, ambient epics to be found on Moonbuilding.  Still, the record does retain Paterson’s trademark natural, analog warmth.  Even his most cosmic and interstellar tracks have always maintained an organic quality sorely missing from much of the bleep-bloop techno of the last few decades.  Similar percussion is present on their newest album, though the wide-eyed energy of the LP is measurably greater than on any of their previous recordings.

But make no mistake about it – at no point does this approach hi-nrg 4-on-the-floor frat techno.  This is an immensely atmospheric record, rich with subtleties and nuances which make repeated listenings most rewarding.  This is, at its heart, proper German electronic music.  Thomas Fehlmann’s contributions are clearly evident as are all the influences of his present home city of Berlin.  If a listener is curious how The Berlin School of the late 1970s has evolved to the present day, the track “Lunar Caves” answers the question perfectly.

“Caves” is where Paterson’s work is most evident.  The song is guided more by classic, dub-inspired ambient rhythms than by heavy percussion and there is a brief but definite nod to Aphex Twin which fans will instantly detect.  If you’ve any doubt that The Orb is ideal for heady headphone listening, you’d do well to remember that this is the band who played chess live(!) on Top of the Pops for “The Blue Room” in 1992.

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“Live” performance of “The Blue Room” on Top of the Pops, 1992

 In all, Moonbuilding 2703 AD marks a triumphant return for The Orb to the Kompakt label and demonstrates that these old boys still have what it takes to make outstanding and fresh new music.

The album is set for release June 23rd and available for preorder at kompakt.fm, as well as a 3LP+CD expanded edition which features a tribute to J Dilla.

Published in: on June 20, 2015 at 1:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Second Toughest in the Infants… at LAST!

Why have one grail when you can have TWO? Followed up yesterday’s Kruder & Dorfmeister Sessions Remastered Edition with this treasure, also from Germany – an original press of Underworld’s Second Toughest in the Infants. This was the last of their vinyl-issued albums missing from my catalog of over 375 analog and digital albums, and it is so exciting to finally claim one for my own!

And, to top everything off, the seller threw in the classic “Rez / Cowgirl” single as a surprise gift!

Second Toughest was the incredible follow-up to the Underworld Mk 2 debut, Dubnobasswithmyheadman.  The record is equal-parts floor-stomping club anthems and cerebral, meditative headphone music.

Hyde’s stream-of-consciousness free form lyrical poetry deconstructs the objective properties of language and functions purely as a rhythmic device, complementing the subtle progression of Rick Smith’s atmospheric abstract techno.

This, like all of Underworld’s recordings, is a milestone for the ages.

Second Toughest

Published in: on May 5, 2015 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Inspiration or Obsession? Underworld, Freur, Karl Hyde, and Tomato

A theme was introduced for the day’s posts in a vinyl community today which led me to take a few updated snapshots of my collection.

The theme was 90s Techno and Dance Music, and it seemed as good a time as any to share my ever-growing collection of the Underworld family of albums and singles.

As many of my readers know, Underworld’s Dubnobasswithmyheadman is perhaps my all-time most beloved LP.  For those not familiar with its significance in my life, it was the very first record I ever heard which wasn’t top 40 radio rock and it blew my mind.

The progressive-house rhythms of Rick Smith and stream-of-consciousness lyricism of front-man Karl Hyde were the catalyst for my exploration into the history of electronic sound and pursuit of the avant-garde. I would certainly not be who I am today without that record.

The stunning album art of Dubnobass was also the work of Hyde’s own graphic design company – Tomato, which counts among their many clientele Nike, Levi, Adidas and many other big names looking for fresh, exciting design in the 90s.  Tomato was the direct inspiration for me to pursue a degree in graphic design and visual communication – a decision which set me on a path to meet many of the most important people in my life. 

Below is my collection to-date.  This includes the albums and singles by their first band (not counting their brief one-off as Screen Gemz) – a synth pop group called Freur.  Freur was originally named with an unpronounceable squiggle depicted on the clear 7″ picture disc below.  Freur is best-known for the hit, “Doot Doot.”  Also featured below are Karl’s more-recent solo effort and collaborative project with Brian Eno.

Brilliant stuff!

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Underworld has explored a wide-range of sonic styles from their early synth-pop days to the present.  Perhaps their best-known trademark sound is that of the hit single, “Born Slippy.Nuxx” – a b-side which gained significant exposure with its appearance on the Trainspotting soundtrack.

But the tracks which first-grabbed my attention were those from the Dubnobass years.  From the album’s opening stead-paced club track, “Dark and Long” to the high-energy pairing of “Rez/Cowgirl.”

Here is the anthem performed live on the Everything Everything tour.

And check out the strikingly-different ambient soundscape, “To Heal” from the Sunshine soundtrack.

And finally, if you fancy a more-worldly mesh of Fela Kuti and Steve Reich, here’s the latest single – an instrumental collaboration with Brian Eno.

I have some exciting original material in the month ahead that you won’t want to miss, so stay tuned!

An Evening of Ambient Trance Classics

I had a quiet evening to myself, and I took advantage of the free time and finally sat down to explore Klaus Schulze and Pete Namlook’s Dark Side of the Moog 12-disc series.

Each of the track titles play off of classics from Pink Floyd’s catalog, such as “Wish You Were There,” “A Saucerful of Ambience,” “Obscured by Klaus,” and “Careful with the AKS, Peter.”

From Dark Side of the Moog I moved on to Pete Namlook’s solo efforts and quickly discovered that he had founded a record label, Germany’s Fax +49-69/450464 (and yes, that is his fax number.) Nearly 450 releases premiered on the label from 1992 until his death in November of 2012, and additional research revealed that Namlook, himself was performing with the ~40 artists and under various monikers which comprised the label’s catalog. FAX earned a reputation for ahead-of-the-curve, timeless electronic ambient music, which still sounds fresh today unlike many of the 90s fad electronic artists who came and went over the decade.

Unfortunately, Namlook released only 500–1000 copies of the majority of the titles on his label.  Then I found a 17 LP retrospective of FAX’s finest work called the Final Vinyl Collector’s Box Set. Sadly, there were only 25 copies produced worldwide.  The set was meant to be officially released, but at that time Fax changed to a non-vinyl distributor and so the boxsets have never been officially released. However, Pete Namlook confirmed that this is an original Fax release. The last copy to surface sold for $550 in 2010.


While scouring the web for more information, I cued up what I had of Namlook in my library, beginning with his 4CD set performing as “Air” from 1993-1996, which was released as a box set in ’97, and then on to 2003’s Ten Years of Silence – a 5CD set of his tribal ambient work as Silence.

Most of my experience with 90s electronic music had been limited to the major downtempo releases from the decade, and the Air Collection inspired me to look deeper into the psychedelic ambient genre.

I quickly found two noteworthy compilations on Namlook’s label titled The Ambient Cookbook volumes I and II.

The first was a 4-disc box set from 1995 which highlighted various artists from the FAX archive.  The second volume, released in 2002, introduced four more discs demonstrating how the ambient genre had evolved over the decade.

If you’re exploring Fax +49-69/450464 Records for the first time, these collections are an excellent place to begin.

Moving onward, ambient trance music led me to psytrance, which I then narrowed further to the psybient subgenre. This was the 90s incarnation of slowbeat space music, described by a RYM user as “Gas on uppers.”

I entered the term “psybient” into youtube and several 1 – 10 hour playlist results populated.  The first track I heard was Russian artist, Cell’s “Audio Deepest Night.”

I loved the minimal beats and sparse, echoey vocal samples. Looking up the artist, I found that the track appeared on disc 4 of a 7-volume series called The Fahrenheit Project on Ultimae Records, released between 2001 and 2011.  The series featured various Russian and French deep techno artists and was released simultaneously in both countries.

I am working my way through the series and enjoy everything I’ve heard thus far.

So ended a productive night of exploration.  The 36 discs described above will keep me busy for the rest of the weekend.  I welcome any recommendations for further listening that you may have to offer.

Additionally, two more rare LPs arrived in the post this week.  Stay tuned for details.