The Orb

The Dream

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The Orb's 2005 classic on the Kompakt label -- aptly titled Okie Dokie It's the Orb on Kompakt -- easily proved that Dr. Alex Paterson and company could hang with the techno avant-garde of the new millennium, taking the minimalist blueprint of many who had followed the Orb and delivering a great record within that context. The follow-up The Dream is just as good, but in a completely different way. Ironically, it sounds more Orb-like than any other record they've done. (There's a certain inverse surprise in following the least likely record with the most likely.) The Orb's return to the green fields of sample-laden ambient-dub may not be welcome to all, but it's clear they've applied a few lessons learned from the Kompakt LP -- it's one of the best-produced of the Orb's career. Paterson returns not just with his own lofty production smarts, but with one of the other best British producers of the past 20 years, Youth, back on board for the first time since the dawn of the group. (The third member of this Orb is Dreadzone's Tim Bran.) The single "Vuja De" has everything in its right place: a bruising technoid bassline, clattering dubwise piano chords, and even an anthemic Eastern-styled female vocal that arrives at just the right time and works surprisingly well, despite its inherent poppiness. True to the title, the entire album is just as gloriously hazy as past Orb work. Granted, it rarely diverts from the pattern -- mind-expanding dub with excellent pacing and something always going on. (The "things" going on include, but aren't limited to, more vocal samples than any Orb album of the past; a ragga chatter named the Corpral popping up on several tracks; two different female vocalists, and Steve Hillage on guitar in four separate places). The Dream isn't just produced well but also programmed well, only slowing down after 73 minutes to a gradual halt on the dreamy underwater backbeats of "Codes" and the beatless closer "Orbisonia." After succeeding on someone else's terms, it's quite a feat to turn around and succeed on your own yet again.

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