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When we speak of The Orb perhaps we subconsciously think of a planet suspended in a void, with everyone on the surface staring out into space. It would be perhaps more fitting to see their world as a bubble where they exist on the inner surface and can only look inwards at their self-contained universe. Metallic Spheres, the electronic ambient outfit's latest studio album, suggests they have neither more nor fewer influences than when they started in 1989. So ostensibly this is another herbal cigarette-friendly selection of celestial synth washes, whacked-out aqueous FX, big slabs of booming dub bass and light dalliances with mid-tempo house and techno.
The one constant of the group, 'Dr' Alex Paterson is this time joined by auxiliary member Youth, who has been quite busy elsewhere over the last few years, collaborating with Paul McCartney on his Fireman project and rejoining seminal post-punk/industrial rock/goth pioneers Killing Joke, who have recently released their first album with him on bass, Absolute Dissent, since 1981. But without a doubt, the most interesting guest member on this project is David Gilmour of stadium prog titans Pink Floyd. Paterson and Gilmour were first brought together to work on a version of Graham Nash's Chicago project for charity. Such, they felt, was the fruitfulness of the partnership that they dragged in Youth to complete a remix and their work has basically effloresced to album length.
Ever since scoring early hits two decades ago with Little Fluffy Clouds and Blue Room, The Orb have been described incessantly as the rave generation's Pink Floyd, so it was perhaps inevitable that these two institutions would eventually combine in some form or other. And of course it will surprise no one but the most uptight and partisan fans of either group to learn that Gilmour's honeyed, chiming and unchallenging guitar work is a sensual fit for The Orb's expansive, uplifting and soporific electronica.
Helpfully split into two sides for all chillers of a certain vintage, both the Metallic and Spheres sides run to under 30 minutes each, which then break down into five separate tracks. Outside of their bubble, of course, there is a seething world of new genres such as dubstep, glo-fi and drag; but these are of no interest to the elder statesmen of rave chill-out, who just want you to switch on a lava lamp, plump up some cushions and drift along to their soothing grooves.