The Orb are an English electronic music group known for being the pioneers of ambient house and were founded in 1988 by Alex Paterson and The KLF member Jimmy Cauty.
The Orb virtually invented the electronic genre known as ambient house, resurrecting slower, more soulful rhythms and providing a soundtrack for early-morning ravers once the clubs closed their doors.
Members of the Orb have been fluid over the years, with Paterson remaining the only constant throughout.
Paterson is a Battersea resident, punk & acid house veteran. His career in music started in the early 1980s as a roadie for Killing Joke for whom his childhood friend Martin ‘Youth’ Glover played bass. After leaving the Killing Joke crew in ‘86, Paterson met future KLF member Jimmy Cauty and the duo began DJ-ing together as The Orb.
The duo started a residency in the chill out room at legendary London club night The Land of Oz at London’s Heaven. Their style of sonic tapestry DJing soon morphed naturally into making records. Then, in 1988 Patterson and Youth put together the seminal acid house/Balearic label WAU! Mr. Modo Records.
In 1990, Paterson (and then Orb member, Youth) released the bona-fide classic ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’, which borrowed a sample from Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint, and transported it to another dimension.
In 1991, Paterson invited freelance studio engineer Andy Falconer to join the Orb. He was closely followed by studio engineer Kris "Thrash" Weston. Steve Hillage, who Paterson had met while DJ-ing in London, also joined as a guitarist. Along with producer Thomas Fehlmann, the Orb completed several tracks for their first album, ‘The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’.
1992 saw the single ‘Blue Room’ reach # 8 in the British charts (despite its playing time of almost 40 minutes). The Orb promoted this single by performing on Top of the Pops playing a game of chess wearing space suits while footage of dolphins whilst an edited version of Blue Room ran in the background.
In July 1992, ‘U.F.Orb’ was released featuring ‘Blue Room. Weston integrated his technical and creative expertise with Paterson's Eno-influenced ambience on ‘U.F.Orb’, combining "drum and bass rhythms" with "velvet keyboards" and "rippling synth lines". ‘U.F.Orb’ reached #1 on the British album charts to the shock of critics, who were surprised that fans had embraced what journalists considered to be progressive rock. Despite the Orb's success, Paterson and Weston preferred to avoid personal publicity and instead allow their music to be the focus of attention.
Longplayers ‘The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’ and ‘U.F.Orb’, are often cited as seminal classics and the latter reached #1 in the British album charts in 1992. Paterson also co-wrote the peerless ‘Higher Than The Sun’ by Primal Scream.
During their live shows of the 1990s, the Orb performed using digital audio tape machines optimised for live mixing and sampling before switching to laptops and digital media. Despite changes in performance method, the Orb maintained their colourful light shows and psychedelic imagery in concert. These visually intense performances prompted critics to compare the group to Pink Floyd. Because of their trippy sound, the Orb developed a cult following among clubbers "coming down" from drug-induced highs.
Following the success of ‘U.F.Orb’, the group signed to Island Records and released the live album ‘Live 93’ on the label. The double-disc set -- which hit number 23 in the album charts -- included highlights from Orb appearances in Europe and Japan, and featured another clever dig at Pink Floyd: the cover has a large stuffed sheep suspended over a power station, la Floyd's Animals cover. ‘Little Fluffy Clouds’ and ‘Perpetual Dawn’ were re-issued and became top 20 hits in the UK.
In 1995, The Orb’s third studio album ‘Orbus Terrarum’ was released charting at number twenty in the UK and producing the single ‘Oxbow Lakes’.
‘Orblivion’ followed in February 1997 and peaked at number nineteen in the United Kingdom; it also became the group's first album to chart in the United States, peaking at number 174 on the Billboard 200 chart. ‘Toxygene’ became their first UK top five single and also charted at number 23 in Ireland.
The Orb’s fifth studio album ‘Cydonia’ was released in February 2001 following several delays, peaking at number 83 in the United Kingdom. The group subsequently left Island Records and released several albums on assorted labels including ‘Bicycles & Tricycles’ (2004) on Cooking Vinyl.
The same year, the ‘Little Big Horn 12“’ came out on Kompakt, plus the album ‘Lowflow’ on Plug Research, before 2005 saw album ‘Okie Dokie, it´s The ORB on Kompakt’ hit the shops.
In 2007, The Orb released ‘The Dream’ on Liquid Sound Design and ‘Baghdad Batteries (Orbsessions Volume III) in 2010 on Malicious Damage.
2008 saw long-time Orb collaborator Thomas Fehlmann record his first soundtrack with Paterson as The Orb, for the feature movie ‘Plastic Planet ‘by Werner Boote.
In 09, Fehlmann recorded the soundtrack for the documentary ´24hours Berlin´, which was screened on TV in its full 24-hour form across Europe. He also remixed tracks for Depeche Mode and Sigur Ros, plus The Orb album ‘Baghdad Batteries ‘was released.
In 2010, the 24hours Berlin soundtrack album ‘Gute Luft’ was released on Kompakt and The Orb began work on the opera ‘Moonbuilding with The Orb’, which was commissioned by London’s Royal Opera House. ‘Metallic Spheres’, a collaboration with English musician David Gilmour, was also released. It gave the group their highest-charting album in the UK since ‘U.F.Orb’, peaking at number twelve on the country's albums chart. ‘Metallic Spheres’ also charted in several European countries, including Belgium, Greece and Ireland.
2011 marked the release of symphonic piece ‘Titan One’ on Kompakt and in 2012, the Orb released ‘The Orbserver in the Star House’, their 13th studio album, collaborating with Jamaican reggae musician Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry. They collaborated again on the follow-up album ‘More Tales from the Orbservatory’, released in 2013.
In 2015, The Orb released ‘Moonbuilding 2703 AD’, a major piece of psychedelic synth bliss, obscure loops and deep ambient textures, driven by swinging breakbeats and powerful basslines.
‘COW / Chill Out, World!’ followed a year later. Featuring only the occasional presence of buoyant, gently rhythmic pulses and loops, Paterson describes COW as “our most ambient album yet”.
In 2016, The Orb performed their seminal debut album ‘Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’ in full for the first time ever, to mark its 25th anniversary at Brixton Academy. For the gig, Paterson and Fehlmann were joined on stage by the original cast of collaborators who helped create the magic on this influential, era-defining milestone including Youth, Steve Hillage, Miquette Giraudy, Andy Falconer, Hugh Vickers, Tom Green, David Herman and punk icon Paul Cook (Sex Pistols), a heavy influence on The Orb.
The Orb release their fifteenth studio album, ‘No Sounds Are Out of Bounds’, on 22nd June 2018 via Cooking Vinyl.
The Orb are confirmed to perform at London’s Roundhouse on 23rd June 2018, for a 30th celebration of the band. ORBFEST is an all-day Orb curated festival bringing together some of the most important, exciting and current acts in electronic music.
The day will also feature the classic Orb line-up that includes ‘Fluffy Clouds’ by co-originator and producer Youth along with Roger Eno, Michael Rendall and special guests. Support and performances will come from Leftfield, Gas (Wolfgang Voigt), Ulrich Schnauss, System 7 and Chocolate Hills.
The Orb have released 14 studio albums plus EPs, singles, compilations and live recordings, influencing countless other musicians along the way.
Paterson has collaborated with Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd) Steve Hillage (Gong), Jah Wobble (PiL), Lee Scratch Perry and Robert Fripp (King Crimson).