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The BBC Sessions 1989-2001

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Album Review

It's fair to say that the Orb never would have reached the British pop Top 40 without the influence and promotion of John Peel, who sponsored three sessions between 1989 and 1995. (There have also been two additional dates for other presenters.) Peel, a veteran of the late-'60s British music scene, appreciated the Orb's blend of futurism and folky traditionalism, seeing them not just as dance saviors but another dot in the line that connected pixilated popsters like T. Rex and the Incredible String Band (both of which Peel had been closely associated with). The Orb's first session was recorded in 1989, well before they had released an album, and it boosted the popularity of both the group and the ambient house phenomenon immeasurably. Although Peel's attention helped, a lot of excitement surrounded the music itself, a gorgeous tableau of music laced with samples taken from Dr. Alex Paterson's immense kit bag of records, including sound effects and obscure instructional records. The only "track" recorded at the first session was the 20-minute "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Underworld" (mixed live on the fly in the studio by then-Orbster Jimmy Cauty), and it became one of the most requested Peel Sessions of the time as well as reaching the Top Ten of Peel's annual Festive 50 countdown. The Orb were back several times, including one year later with versions of debut LP material like "Back Side of the Moon" and "Into the 4th Dimension," and in 1993 with a version of the U.F.Orb classic "O.O.B.E." plus a wild cover of the Stooges' "No Fun" with a traditional band lineup. The second disc of this extensive program covers a 1995 session with Mark Radcliffe featuring Orbus Terrarum material, as well as a longer live set from 1998, first played on Steve Lamacq's program. Although everything after the first track provides a bit of anticlimax, the Orb in session with John Peel are just as vitally important as most of their "studio" recordings.


Formed: 1989 in London, England

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

The Orb virtually invented the electronic genre known as ambient house, resurrecting slower, more soulful rhythms and providing a soundtrack for early morning ravers once the clubs closed their doors. The group popularized the genre as well by appearing on the British chart show Top of the Pops and hitting number one in the U.K. with the 1992 album U.F.Orb. Frontman Dr. Alex Paterson's formula was quite simple: he slowed down the rhythms of classic Chicago house and added synth work and effects inspired...
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The BBC Sessions 1989-2001, The Orb
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