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The Orb – C Batter C

Malicious Damage

After last year’s cosmic collaboration with David Gilmour, [post=orb-featuring-david-gilmour-metallic-spheres text=”Metallic Spheres”], The Orb come back down to earth with a bump for their new album C Batter C. It’s effectively a soundtrack for a film and an exhibition that was held in Brixton in London at the end of last year. But do the separate pieces stand up on their own, without the aid of a gallery or installation environment? The answer is quite simply yes.

The rather beautiful-looking CD and DVD deals with the persistence of memory and the fragility of these over time. As we grow older our memories become compartmentalised and also tainted, but what we now know changes compared to the time when events happened. We tend to view our own memories from an almost third person point of view and recollect parts as aspects rather than events as a whole. We selectively store information, that as time goes by gives a sense of the unreality of these events within space and time. However, the memories here are stored within a film made in 1956 of three children taken on a trip through London. Hence the image burnt into the retina of the camera captures these memories for all time and holds them outside of any forward momentum of that time like a looking glass mirror of yourself that never ages. The DVD has the complete video installation from the exhibition, a moving and meandering trip of over half a century ago. This old footage is intermixed with new film from 2010, blending and overlaying the images together to see the change in locations over time and in some cases how they have hardly changed at all. The Orb’s music fits wonderfully with the images, but we must turn to the CD to see if it stands on its own merits.

The audio section of this release contains the original soundtrack plus various remixes. “Battersea Bunches Original Soundtrack” starts with a slide guitar which moves through sampled voices and sedated drums. This reminds of Brian Eno’s 70s soundtrack work in the way it uses special sounds to create something that is not only ambient but unnerving. A piano section begins to take over that inter-mixes synthesizer pads with plucked guitar that has a feel similar to the instrumental pieces on David Sylvian’s Gone to Earth album. The piano fugue plays its funeral dirge before we enter into a more rhythmic section with clattering synth noises that moves along much like the sound of later Test Department albums; in fact the whole piece seems to resonate with that 80s Avant-Garde industrial feeling.

“To Battersea With Bunches” in its HFB remix lets the piano part carry the tune over some steady (rather 80s sounding) drums and lets the cosmic synth passages takeover to make the track feel like its held in time somewhat. Some nice organ and string stabs give the piece a Sakamoto essence at points, and this is added to by a fantastic prog-sounding lead synth line. A wonderful and interesting way to start the remixes. “Meandering Through the Emerald Turf,” a Gaudi remix, builds up on more dub elements of the track and so seems more familiar territory for Orb fans. Its deep bass line throbs to get your head moving along to the rhythm. Kraftwerk-style beat stutters and inter-galactic wibble pulse through the “Brixton Hundreds” remix by David Harrow, who manages to invest a John Foxx futurist feel to the track. London is turned into a 23rd century landscape with the help of its snappy synthesizer and beat patterns.

“Latchmere Allotments,” a Nocturnal Sunshine remix finds a more ambient trance elements to the piece and again latches on to a Planet Dog-era dub feel. The Being remix called “Red House, Brown Dog” mixes again the piano element along with a staccato beat and atmospheric synths that give it an early morning trance feel. “Beyond the Legend of the Battersea Asparagus Triangle” by Autolump adds a sense of an urgent beat to proceedings, its driving rhythm giving the track a forward in time momentum. The “Batter C Bunny’s Munching Orbular Marrow Mix” by Thomas Fehlmann starts with a vocal sample that carries the tune into a more standard dance beat and lets the same sample dictate the rhythm. The track breaks down and reassembles itself as it makes its way towards the conclusion of the album.

The set as a whole works wonderfully well. The remixes are very different from each other in what they offer tonally as well as sonically and hold the attention throughout. This is not the easiest of The Orb’s releases but certainly adds to the canon of material Alex Patterson has created over the years. It is stunning, beautiful, and melancholic at times and at some points other-worldy. It is the old and the modern sitting side by side in a timeless sedate manner and the soundtrack to those London streets will never be quite the same again.

-Gary Parsons-

 

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