Lots of fun for late-period Perry fans, and will appeal to Orbologists, too.
David Katz 2012
Once upon a time, in a distant galaxy, a Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry vocal album was a rare thing.
Arriving in Kingston in the early 1960s, Perry changed the shape of Jamaican popular music many times over. Of his many achievements, pioneering dub at his Black Ark studio is the standout. He didn't concentrate on singing until relatively late: his first full-length vocal set arrived in 1978, but the next didn't surface until the mid-1980s, when a transformed Perry washed up in England as a walking performance-art piece, following a dramatic metamorphosis.
Since then, he has collaborated with myriad entities, issuing albums of varying quality with dizzying speed, ranging from intriguing excellence to terrible trash. Thankfully, this playful pairing with dub-influenced dance duo, The Orb, leans toward the former.
Perry’s babbling stream of non-consciousness fits well over their fluidly spacey electronic backing, resulting in plenty of moments to savour. The minimalist rhythm of Golden Clouds, a reworking of The Orb’s Little Fluffy Clouds, has an optimistic, upbeat quality to it, as a double-tracked Perry communes with God.
Hold Me Upsetter has a wacky bossa nova feel, courtesy of a warm vocal sample, as Perry’s nonsensical chants are dubbed into oblivion.
Man in the Moon is another charmer, with snippets of wisdom in the Upsetter’s ramblings as the track slowly unfolds; it begins sounding like a Goan trance track gone wrong, but soon drifts into skanking territory, as Perry proclaims himself a Swiss tycoon, at home on the moon.
Re-working Junior Murvin’s Police & Thieves might seem like a bad idea, but this warped re-cut nearly works, in part because The Orb draw in a few bars of an ancient 1960s Upsetters organ track, chopped up with some ghostly 1970s melodica work. Perry’s vocal improves as the track progresses, too.
And although The Orb harness a range of mostly down-tempo styles on the disc, it all hangs together rather well, and unlike many recent releases, nothing too objectionable passes Mr Perry’s lips.
Overall, The Orbserver… is lots of fun for late-period Perry fans, and will appeal to Orbologists, too.