The Orb, Abolition Of The Royal Familia - album review

The Orb have smashed through the three-decade barrier for bringing us laid back ambient house and electronic music.

The artwork for The Orb's Abolition Of The Royal Familia by Pure Evil
The artwork for The Orb's Abolition Of The Royal Familia by Pure Evil

With a consistently rotating and transforming line-up they have delved into this and dallied with that in what has a been a long, experimental and varied career.

This, their 17th studio album, sees long-standing member Alex Paterson take on the main writing duties alongside Michael Rendall, who has risen through the ranks from starting out as a member of their touring band.

It consists of 12 separate tracks which sample this, that and the other and include contributions from the likes of Youth, Roger Eno, David Harrow from On U-Sound, Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy of System 7 fame.

The journey is a slow-burner from start to finish. Various soundscapes come and go. We take long, drifting journeys through high-energy, beat-fuelled processors and at other times plod heavily through reggae-infused fields.

There's a lot to take in at a glance. As the duo themselves say, it has the same "anything goes" ethos that ran through 2018's No Sounds Are Out of Bounds and this record acts as a kind of partner to it.

Alex Paterson and Michael Rendall write The Orb's latest record

It follows their recent writing process of taking a pop at the establishment. In fact, it did at one point contain a sample of Prince Charles speaking which has since been removed for fear of lawsuits. It especially takes umbrage with the royal family's endorsement of the East India Company's historic opium trade, which damaged India and caused two wars with China in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

The frenetic House Of Narcotics (Opium Wars Mix) alludes to this as it is apparently what other nations referred to the royal family as at the time. Rushed beats collide to create a simmering, bopping atmosphere jutted with staggered vocal samples.

The breezy, meandering, over-long Afros, Afghans and Angels (Helgö Treasure Chest) starts with more nods to the family through samples as somebody turns a dial searching for a radio station.

Away from that theme, Hawk Kings (Oseberg Buddhas Buttonhole) is a tribute to the work of Professor Stephen Hawking after Paterson met him at a lecture and learnt he had been a fan. This is full of a pulsing beat and energy that would have been at home in the soundtrack to the Mass Effect game series.

Shape Shifters (In Two Parts) (Coffee & Ghost Train Mix) starts slowly but builds to a satisfying crescendo, while Ital Orb (Too Blessed To Be Stressed Mix) will take England football fans back to the 2018 World Cup with the commentary of Kieran Trippier's free-kick against Croatia in the semi-final amongst the many samples.

Rating: 6/10

The Orb will play Birmingham's O2 Institute on May 27 with support from Mad Professor and Don Letts DJing

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