Music for a trip to Mars
The Orb really means it with the album title No Sounds are Out of Bounds. The newest project by the English electronic group is their most collaborative and dynamic yet, with features from Roger Eno, Hollie Cook and a slew of session musicians and vocalists. The group has been famous for their science fiction aesthetic and significant contributions to the ambient house genre. On No Sounds Are out of Bounds, The Orb takes from all their influences and crafts an album that is always morphing into the next genre and groove while keeping a consistent extraterrestrial atmosphere throughout.
Kicking things off, “The End of The End” featuring Emma Gillespie is otherworldly, psychedelic and groovy. The trip-hop beat switches seamlessly into some dubby reggae, which doesn’t overstay its welcome and adds a lot of character to the track. The Orb elevates the creativity in “I Wish I Had a Pretty Dog” by using dog panting as a rhythmic device. Dub reggae beats and delay-heavy one shots echo around swirling samples.
“Rush Hill Road,” featuring Hollie Cook and Brother Culture, is musically great. It has an old school dancefloor sound, complete with funky basslines and creative sampling. Hollie Cook sounds fine on this song but adds a little ‘90s cheesiness with her delivery. “Pillow Fight” puts the listener floating in space while bits of sampled audio fly past, a driving beat takes over the track and a funky bassline move things forward.
“Isle of Horns” is an ambient dub track with some lots of natural forest and water sounds. These textures paint a vivid surreal world, as the reggae beat and bassline kick in the track takes you on a relaxed psychedelic journey. “Wolfbane” starts life as a bouncy hip hop instrumental. The drums are weak at first, as a result of some questionable drum programming, but as soon as the main (more acoustic sounding) beat kicks in, the song is some very well done trip-hop.
“Other Blue Worlds” has a tribal influence with great drum percussion and group chants. Laid back instrumentation does a great job of providing a relaxed vibe and The Orb keeps things interesting throughout with subtle variation. “Doughnuts Forever” has a Boards of Canada downtempo electronica feel, with trip-hop drums and some great sample work. Nothing is out of place here, emotional piano instrumentation flows into the lush choral samples and clean basslines.
The Orb shows off some futuristic dub reggae with the song “Easy on the Onions.” The groove is amazing and the instrumentation tells such a dramatic story with its spaced out piano chords and hints of saxophone. “Ununited States” is a chilling political statement. The atmosphere is sinister and foreboding, voices whisper and anxiety builds. Hope comes in the form of a somber but beautiful trumpet, pianos start to build emotion, it almost sounds as if the melody starts towards “America the Beautiful,” but takes a darker turn. The progression from despair to hesitant hopefulness reflects a society mired in a deeply divided political climate where people see volatility in our institutions and with hesitant hope, believe they can still build a better future.
Finishing things off, “Soul Planet” featuring Andy Caine and Mary Pierce, is a 15-minute long ambient house epic, the first half of this track is atmospheric and spacey, building up to soulfully sung vocals paired with groovy basslines and a thumping four to floor beat. The five-minute long outro is a little tedious but it makes the listener feel like they are flying out into the cosmos.
The Orb delivers a wonderfully diverse yet cohesive set of detailed and atmospheric dance music epics. There are a lot of sounds and genres represented here from IDM to jazz to reggae. The vocals are somewhat unnecessary besides on the closer, but overall this is cutting edge and very fun to listen to.