Long-time space voyagers are going to be perfectly at home with The Dream.
Chris Jones 2008
Three years after their last album, the ambient dub spaceship, The Orb, drifts back onto our radars. The floating duo has been shorn of Thomas Fehlmann; replaced by old-time collaborator, producer and bass maverick, Martin 'Youth' Glover. And with other old shipmates like System 7 guitar wrangler, Steve Hillage, on board it's no surprise that The Dream is a return to the dubby, post-rave, sample-heavy playfulness of the band's earlier triumphs. Yet it comes with a lighter more danceable touch than recent offerings. Maybe it's the re-assertion of Alex Paterson's playful approach to sample-ology, after the dominance of Fehlmann’s more dour, minimal electronica that graced 2005's Okie Dokie…, but for some reason one comes away from this album with a sense of nostalgia.
With Paterson now 48 and Youth (ho ho) 47, it's no surprise that there’s a whiff of if not dad-rock, then dad-rave about all this. Tracks like the single Vuja De and DDD/DDD put one in mind of nothing less than Primal Scream’s seminal rock/rave moment, Screamadelica, with their gospel-y, life-affirming exhortations. It's not helped that Paterson’s choice of samples runs the rather obvious gamut from chemical nudge-nudge, wink-wink stuff to sounds that that reference prog. The title track opens with a guitar line snatched from Caravan's Winter Wine, while The Truth Is…features radio evangelist, The Prophet Omega, who first appeared on the solo albums of King Crimson's Adrian Belew. It also has the same sample that graced their finest moment, 1992's The Blue Room.
Yet, it's not all backwards-facing. Katskills comes close to dubstep, showing that Paterson hasn't just been at home browsing through his old Gong albums. As mood-enhancing standard-bearers The Orb still have a deft touch. While the towers of dub still stand tall on tracks such as Lost & Found or the shimmering High Noon, the real surprises are on the free-form snippets (The Forest Of Lyonesse, Sleeping Tiger & The Gods Unknown). And when they stretch out and well, blow their own minds with the 6–minute Orbisonia, you're left wishing they could have made an entire album like this.
Long-time space voyagers are going to be perfectly at home with The Dream. As to whether they still have a place in these darker, less optimistic days remains to be seen.