The Orb

Cydonia

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Comprised of recordings made just after 1997's Orblivion (and subsequently trapped in major-label-restructuring limbo for nigh on three years), Cydonia is a hodgepodge of Orb styles and sounds, a quality production that nevertheless meanders too far and duplicates too many ideas first heard on Orb records ten years in the past. Much of Cydonia (the title is a reference to a region of Mars where astronauts reportedly found evidence of ancient civilization) aligns to the slightly spacey, slightly noisy dub heard on Orblivion and 1995's Orbus Terrarum. Thankfully, the album also has the exquisite pacing and smooth transitions of the classic Orblivion -- a spritely Indian dub piece ("Promis") leads naturally into the lazy-day ambience of "Ghostdancing" and on into "Turn It Down," a paranoid production with the conspiracy-theory airs of earlier Orb work. Also, the trademarked Orb sense of humor is in full effect on "Egnable," wherein an English-as-a-second-language instructor grows more and more confused (and incoherent) over carnival-music backing. As expected from the title, "A Mile Long Lump of Lard" is another classic Orb production, with plenty of thick, shuddering industrial percussion. The biggest shock for longtime listeners is Dr. Alex Paterson's recruitment of two female vocalists (Aki Omori, Nina Walsh) for a pair of songs apiece. The opener, "Once More" (led by Omori), is a hazy electro-pop number that brings the Orb back to the sunny pastures of 1990s "Little Fluffy Clouds." Despite a few interesting tracks though, Cydonia suffers from a pronounced lack of imagination and focus: Paterson is the only track-to-track constant in the production credits, and longtime co-producers Thomas Fehlmann and Andy Hughes make a few scattered appearances next to a parade of newer names. Despite a few tracks staking out some promising new territory merging pop, trance, and ambient-dub, Cydonia has few pleasures for the fans and not much to grab onto for those new to the band.

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