by Don Crispy
Le Petit Orb
The hoary godfather of ambient house still has a screw
COURTESY OF Standard Works
If for no other reason, Alex Paterson and his shifting cast
of partners in the Orb deserve a place in a future electronica
Hall of Fame for the 1990 psychedelic anthem Little
Fluffy Clouds. The song, which featured a goofy, unauthorized
Rickie Lee Jones sample cut up over a bed of subterranean
dub beats, floaty synth melodies, and spacey effects, was
one of dance musics first full-fledged hits.
It was also a bridge between the 70s ambient explorations
of artists like Brian Eno and Pink Floyd and the rapidly evolving
house music culture, and set a template for much of the downtempo
music that provided a breather in chill out rooms
for ravers tired from too much E n glee.
Paterson and co-producers such as Jimmy Cauty released a series
of albums in the early 90s, including The Orbs
Adventures Beyond the Underworld and Live 93, that,
along with fellow travelers like Future Sound of London, defined
a kind of music that was meant not so much to be heard or
danced to as to be immersed in.
While danceable rhythms would emerge and then disappear, the
effect was not linear but dimensional, a kind of sonic environment
in which sampled backgrounds from BBC nature documentaries
and NASA space recordings had as much value as the rhythms
and melodies. Japan, with its generation of Bubble-era kids
eager for psychedelic experimentation and its openness to
music, quickly leapt on the rave bandwagon in the early 90s.
Paterson was soon a fixture at signature events like Rainbow
2000 and clubs such as Yellow, both in his Petit Orb (with
Thomas Fehlmann) and individual DJ incarnations.
When the promise of a new musical future that seemed so bright
in the early days of rave culture descended into musical stasis
and drug dependency, however, Paterson caught his fair share
of critical flack. But the producer, who always seemed leftfield
enough for the drugs to be superfluous, ignores accusations
of being passé and continues to stick to his guns.
Patersons 2004 outing as the Orb (with recent collaborator
Fehlmann), Bicycles and Tricycles, for instance, nods to contemporary
club rhythms like breakbeats and electro. But the rhythms
are never more than mere suggestions, and are soon submerged
in clouds of effects and samples before one actually is seized
by the urge to get up and dance.
The chance to play alongside Paterson has long been a prominent
platform for domestic DJs, and at Daikanyamas Unit the
honor falls to Hiroshi Watanabe, a Berklee College of Music
graduate with some legitimate house hits under his belt in
the US in the 90s, regular residencies at Module and
Maniac Love, and an association with key German imprint Kompakt...
Also in Daikanyama next weekend, French nu electro label Kitsunes
Gildas Loaec and Masaya Kuroki will be in town to celebrate
the release of their new Kitsune X compilation with a party
at Air featuring special guest Trevor Jackson. Kitsune X serves
up plenty of razor sharp beats by producers including Joakim,
founder of noted techno label Tigersushi, while Jackson has
been one of Englands disco punk emissaries via his Output
Le Petit Orb@Unit, April 2. Kitsune
X release party@Air, April 1. See club listings for details.
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