Wednesday 25 April 2018

Orbsessed - Reconstructing Cydonia....

Twin seals of approval!

So what's the deal with The Orb's 2001 album Cydonia? Even this frighteningly comprehensive, mightily informative and lovingly compiled discography (now defunct) has everything post-2000 down as the 'crap years' and it's fair to say Cydonia saw them stumbling into the new millennium with something of a transitional album. It could certainly be seen as the final nail in The Orb MKI*s coffin, the departure of Andy Hughes under a less than fluffy cloud - presumably somewhere along the line between the initial Feb 1999 promo discs, the interim single CD promo efforts of Oct and Dec '99 and the reduction of his contributions to the Feb 2001 album proper - bringing a definite end to their "layering sounds on top of each other" phase. A fairly exhaustive (and slightly salacious) account of this decidedly troubled period for all concerned (and they certainly were!) is here (now defunct)....

Let's consider, er, MKI.1 to be the genesis, Paterson, Cauty et al, MKI.2 Paterson, Weston et al, MKI.3, Paterson, Hughes et al. Of course, it's a little unfair to define the group by their high-profile departures as Thomas Fehlmann has been a near-constant throughout MKs I.2 and I.3, and is pretty much responsible, em, for the bulk of MKII's output thereafter which is, um, kinda suddenly unfairly damning him with, eh, faint praise indeed, innit...?

Hark! There it is! Picture from Discogs.

In order to successfully cook up the original double album you need to be in possession of the 2008 Cydonia Special Edition with the second cd of unreleased (re)mixes and 'Versions' as well as 2006's Orbsessions Volume One* and 2007's Orbsessions Volume Two. By plucking select tracks from the 3 of these, and in paying particular attention to running times, we can begin....

* I own the re-release of this album, which retains the Space - Space outtake in the form of Pluto Calling (Twinkle), but omits the Cauty/Paterson Mummie Don't, replacing that with Angel 3 Dub.

Mummie Don't! ....before she evidently upped and did!

Disc 1
1 - Terminus. Let's kick off with Andy's Mix from the Cydonia Bonus Disc, assuming it's an earlier incarnation of the eventual album version.
2 - Jam On Yer Honey is taken from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it's called Jam On Your Honey).
3 - Once More is the album track from the original Cydonia.
4 - Ralf is nabbed from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it's called Ralph's Cupboard).
5 - Promis is the Version from the Cydonia Bonus Disc, clocking in at a slightly longer 5:47 (and close to the 5:45 of the CD-R's).
6 - Bicycles & Tricycles is swiped from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it's called 2026).

The original promo tracklisting from the suporb discography.

Disc 2
1 - Turn It Down is the Long Version from the Cydonia Bonus Disc.
2 - Yungle is plucked from Orbsessions Volume One.
3 - Ghostdancing is the Version from the Cydonia Bonus Disc. It should likely be the original album version with its matching running time, but I've elected for this version as it does away with the middling vocals.
4 - A Mile Long Lump Of Lard is the album track from the original Cydonia, sadly shorn of about 4 minutes in comparison to the CD-R cut.
5 - Freely Wheely ("Feely Wheely") is grabbed from Orbsessions Volume Two (where it's called Ba'albeck).
(6 - Hamlet Of Kings. This is just a bonus you can add to kinda balance up the running times and, well, it's probably the only other track really worth salvaging from the original Cydonia album.)

The full length 2CD-R promo version of Terminus.

So along the way way back we lose EgnableFirestarCenturiesPlum Island1,1,1 and EDMThursday's Keeper (and Hamlet Of Kings, I suppose, if we're playing by the absolute rules). The first 2 of these original album tracks are really just a couple of minutes of filler before we get to the twin horrors that are Centuries and Plum Island - a pair of pretty bland songy dirges that plop and plod along in the pedestrian direction of nowhere.... you'd ever really want to revisit. (Once More and Ghostdancing were more than enough of the ill-advised 'pop song phase' for me, thank you.) 1,1,1 - the only Orb track ever credited to Paterson alone? - is more blink-and-you'll-miss-it filler and EDM is fairly standard in their sleep lumpen electro-stodge (that was stretched out to an almost interminable length at their 2014 25th Anniversary show) that you'd be best passing over in favour of the far better, almost-deserves-to-make-the-cut, Thursday's Keeper....

The verdict? Well, for all my criticism of the original Cydonia album there's no denying that over the years you do become accustomed to how it all hangs together as a piece, so by somewhat mercilessly chopping it up and shuffling it around and adding extra tracks it's impossible not to unsettle the ingrained listening experience, especially as the newer, er, older tracks are that bit more abrasive in their execution (though I certainly prefer the reinstated tracks over those discarded). However, given this post has had a similarly long and pained period of gestation I can happily report that I am beginning to reprogramme my audio receptors to gratefully receive. The first disc - once you get past the ingrained notion that Terminus should always be the concluding track - actually hangs together pretty well. The space epic of 2026 in particular, is a definite highlight worth unearthing....

20 Bicycles & 26 Tricycles....

By disc 2 there's no denying the first 3 or 4 minutes of Yungle are great stuff, but the descent into heavy beats with the distorted vocal sample becomes more than just a little wearing over the course of the full 10 and the following Ghostdancing sticks out like a (muted) sore thumb in the midst of this disc. Again, with the original vocals forming so much of the listening experience it does sound rather lacking when reduced to an instrumental version (which, I suppose, should really be added, if somewhat grudgingly). But, by continually exploring this set of tracks as a double album there's a definite similarity of sound, the sonic palette featuring a strange array of, um, honks, clonks, squinks and skwonks that are unique to this period of The Orb alone....

Yungle. Er, turn it down at 02:27....

There's probably a decent enough case for living with these select tracks for a bit longer and then further reassembling them into more evenly sounding sides, perhaps a softer ambient disc to start with followed by a rougher, beat-laden effort to follow (like, y'know, the complete opposite of their frankly horrible, career trashing run through at the Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld/Chill Out World! gig in Glasgow). It might just work.... Certainly I'd much rather have had this double set in 1999 - I think it just about merits escaping the 'crap years' in this form - and it is infinitely preferable to the remastered and expanded special edition of Cydonia from 2008 (the second disc which, with it's plethora of turd polishing remixes of the dreary Centuries, Plum Island and Once More, could be the worst thing farted out of The Orb's 00's cash cow)....

Limmy's Show: Dee Dee : Moon

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