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*** THE ORB "Cydonia" MCA

February 25, 2001|STEVE BALTIN

Orb mastermind Dr. Alex Paterson got his start in the U.K. electronic scene by uniting techno with progressive avant-garde music. On the Orb's fifth full-length album (due Tuesday), Paterson's version of Frankenstein's monster is fully realized in the form of a conceptual techno album about the life of primordial Martians (the album's title comes from the name of the mythical city on ancient Mars).

While the disc is, in many respects, every bit as out there as that notion suggests, "Cydonia" is also a fascinating musical collection that weaves from warm pop to trip-hop to heavy techno to circus sounds accompanied by David Lynchian spoken interludes.

Paterson wisely welcomes listeners into his opus with the warmest track, "Once More." Kicking off with a playful synth sound reminiscent of Yaz's '80s hit "Only You" and featuring gorgeous vocals by Japanese singer Aki, the song would make anyone sign up for a trip to Cydonia. Lest they get too comfortable on their visit though, the album quickly shifts into "Promis," an instrumental that weds techno blips and bleeps with Celtic undertones. An ambitious work, "Cydonia" is not intended for all audiences. However, those fascinated by the thin line between genius and insanity should find a lot to ponder.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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