On October 14th, Kompakt presented prolific ambient electronic act The Orb’s 16th album, ‘COW / Chill Out, World!’, which marks a creative renewal for the duo. It also features contributions from Youth and Roger Eno, and is encased in minimal ‘ambient cover art’ courtesy of The Designers Republic. The album is supported with a nine date UK tour this November/December.
Despite apparently clear connotations to their history, influences and peers (like Alex Paterson’s uncredited role in the KLF’s ‘Chill Out’ album, or the cover cows of Pink Floyd’s ‘Atom Heart Mother’), the album’s title is actually an instruction, or at least a friendly suggestion. Whilst Alex calls it “a protest album in reverse”, Thomas Fehlmann further explains, “we didn’t intend to rehash old chill out vibes. On the contrary. It’s the 21st century and it seems like a good idea for people to sit back and chill the fuck out, before continuing to act destructively. To chill out is to act consciously, guided from a calm centre.” Featuring only the occasional presence of buoyant, gently rhythmic pulses and loops, Alex Paterson describes ‘COW’ as “our most ambient album yet”. Sounds bubble, flutter and float through various atmospheres and moods, from bucolic and picturesque, childlike wonderment, the texture of bygone memories, to the universe’s infinite depth.
Fehlmann also sees the duo’s relentless live schedule as a formative influence. “The countless gigs we’ve played in recent years – probably up to 300 – have brought us closer as a musical unit. Our concerts consist mostly of non-verbal communication and improvisation – a fertile process that we’ve brought to the studio, where we operate with very simple rules of engagement (in this case ‘ambient’) and go wherever the flow takes us.” It’s an approach that one might expect from traditional acoustic instrumentation, not necessarily an electronic set-up, but for The Orb it works wonders. “We’re quite happy and a little bit proud that we’ve reached this level of unscripted levity with purely electronic means. We’re finessing ourselves, sort of, always looking for the next sonic surprise that leaves us rubbing our eyes about how the heck we got there.”
Sounding refreshed but classic, innocent but deep and extemporaneous but beautifully crafted, COW finds The Orb at their most stunning and transcendent peak to date. The Orb play the following tour dates, which encompass ‘Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld’ played in full, plus other classics and music from ‘COW’:
Sheffield, Plug, 24th November
Manchester Academy 2, 25th November
Glasgow, SWG3, 26th November
Waterfront, Norwich, 1st December
Brighton, Concord 2, 2nd December
Nottingham, Rescue Rooms, 3rd December
Southampton, Engine Rooms, 8th December
Cardiff, Tramshed, 9th December
Bristol, Marble Factory, 10th December