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The Orb - Bicycles & Tricycles

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Artist: The Orb

Album: Bicycles & Tricycles

Label: Sanctuary

Review date: Jul. 27, 2004

Regardless of one’s health insurance plan, the good Dr. Alex Patterson will liberally prescribe a dosage of cannabis-laced headphone candy to soothe all ailments. As the ever-growing pulsating brain behind the amorphous collective of knob-twiddlers known as The Orb, Patterson stewarded electronic music to stadiums and the upper chart regions in England. Crowned heir apparent to Pink Floyd’s gilded throne long before Radiohead’s weary reign, Patterson has weathered nearly 15 years worth of gardes, from light-stick brigades to kamikaze scramblers.

Preserved in a haze of PHC and anti-mater in their own private ultraworld, The Orb has made only minor alterations to its cruising altitude since its 1991 launch. The sole diversion remains 1995’s unfairly maligned Orbus Terrarum, wherein Patterson and Co. probed the most warped reaches of space-time, coasting through black holes to find their bizzaro double on the other end. Bruised by the critical backlash, 1997’s fairly fine Orblivion and best of U.F. Off returned the group to the dancefloor but never again to the same outer realms.

Arriving on America’s shores having already been released in Europe a summer ago with a different tracklisting, Bicycles and Tricycles is sadly no exception Though Patterson is still largely peddling outdated sample-heavy narco-trance, the new disc is quite an improvement from 2001’s career-low Cydonia even if it may share that record’s flaws. Most erroneous is the continued handover of tracks to negligible vocalists. Bicycles and Tricycles clocks in with a pair of voiced cuts: the laughable flow of MC Soom T on “Aftermath” and The Corpral’s vocoder histrionics on “From a Distance (Blast Master Vs. The Corpral).” Shades of Orb’s past recur both good (the bong smoke fairy tale of “The Land of Green Ginger”) and bad (the stale tweaker’s apocalypse of “Prime Evil”), while “Tower Twenty Three (Spud & Kreature Mix)” strips the astral coating for a full-on melodica mediated dub trip. That said, this tour de dance isn’t entirely run on a nostalgic course.

With longtime cohort Thomas Fehlmann’s able navigation, Paterson has entered the Cologne orbit of premier microhouse manufacturer Kompakt and the label’s minimalist thump and pop ambient blissclouds have clearly revitalized him. Whether gliding an android Teutonic throb, submerging in a frigid pool of blue hiss or rockin’ the trademark schaffel beat, Patterson is at his best on Bicycles and Tricycles when playing catch up to the upstarts. He may have lost himself somewhere round the backside of Mars, but looks like the northern lights have brought this spaced astronaut back to earth.

By Bernardo Rondeau

Other Reviews of The Orb

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The Orbserver in the Star House

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