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The Orb: Bicycles & Tricycles


The Orb

Album: Bicycles & Tricycles
Label: Sanctuary

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A throwback to the days when rave was a burgeoning culture rather than a spike on the historical radar, The Orb stands as the electronic-music equivalent of an oldies band. Even the name swims in nostalgia for light shows, waking dreams, and early computer graphics oozing down the face of old rave flyers.

With canon standards like 1991's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, The Orb helped negotiate the terms for ambient house, a style that laid gauzy netting over tracks, beat-driven or not, that worked as atmospheres as much as instigation. Influences migrated from all over the planetary soundscape: echo trains from Jamaican dub, didgeridoo moans from Australia, mechanical sass from Chicago, and so on. All of those sounds gather again in Bicycles & Tricycles, but The Orb's latter-day incarnation lands closer to the dance floor than the chill-out room. It also sounds rootless and unfocused, in ways good and bad.

Where classic Orb albums navigate self-contained worlds, Bicycles sounds like a haphazard collection of tracks made with different styles and times in mind. Some of those tracks work wonders: "From A Distance" mines the Germanic "schaffel" sound, an off-time shuffle marked by the accents of a kicked can tumbling around feet otherwise set to stomp. "Hell's Kitchen" stirs up a storm with pregnant electronic melodies and breakbeats churning in the distance. But just as many others sound indistinct: "Land Of Green Ginger" and "Tower Twenty Three" are guided by mesmerizing but nonetheless customary Orb wanderlust. None of Bicycles & Tricycles falls fatefully flat, but the more contemporary-minded highlights share equal time with standards that evoke little more than the swirling din with which The Orb has become synonymous.