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POP MUSIC | RECORD RACK

March 23, 1997|D. James Romero

THE ORB

"Orblivion"

Island

* * * *

The Orb has emerged from the early '90s as the king of spaced-out "ambient" music and an esteemed member of the U.K. dance-music elite. This is a testament to the beauty of its sound, for this trio--led by former Killing Joke roadie Dr. Alex ("LX") Paterson--relies on long, mystic songs and rarely produces anything in the same galaxy as a traditional pop ballad.

"Orblivion" transcends the ambient genre's wallpaper aesthetic and creates clockwork grooves under a mood of millennial nostalgia. There are bits and pieces of drum-and-bass, trip-hop and house music here, but this work is above mere genre-spotting.

"Orblivion" sounds like a lost satellite receiving a century's worth of random radio signals from planet earth and compressing them into a musical time capsule. Using hip-hop beats, classical strings, spoken word, African chants, Asian melodies, the sounds of cars and the songs of birds, the Orb creates a sublime work that is sometimes innocent, sometimes mad, always riveting.

And amazingly, despite the trio's voracious appetite for samples, the album is a coherent and mesmerizing journey through a sea of sound. "Orblivion" is your musical life passing before your ears.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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