Dusting Off... The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld
What is it?
Released in 1991, Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld is the debut album from electronic music collective The Orb. Over the last two and a half decades The Orb's line-up has changed and shifted a number of times, but the group's one constant throughout that entire period has been Alex Paterson, who has been performing for the last 10 of those years under the Orb name alongside Thomas Fehlmann. Back in those early formative years however The Orb was a very different beast.
Towards the back end of the 1980s one of the most beloved fixtures of London's nightclub scene was Paul Oakenfold's Land of Oz, an eclectic night hosted at legendary nightclub Heaven, housed in a former roller disco underneath the arches of Charing Cross station. Originally a duo comprising Paterson and Jimmy Cauty, who would later become one half of KLF along with Bill Drummond, The Orb were pioneers of the ambient house genre whose bizarre sets consisted largely of early dub reggae records and ambient sound recordings like those found in the BBC's sound effects library. They accompanied this with visual displays projected onto screens hung on the nightclub's walls, featuring images of everything from the NASA moon landings to self-shot home movies of ducks in the park.
Having self-released a couple of early singles, Paterson and Cauty went their separate ways over a disagreement about which record label should release their debut LP. Cauty had wanted to release the album on his newly formed KLF Communications imprint, but Paterson wanted the support of a more established label and instead the album was released on the Big Life imprint that was home to DJ duo Coldcut.
Propelled by the success of the album's best-known track, 'Little Fluffy Clouds', Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld debuted at No.1 in the UK Album Chart, leading to the group's infamous appearance on Top of the Pops in which the group sat and played a game of chess while their music played in the background.
Other standout moments from the album include 'Perpetual Dawn' and the album's closing track, the Minnie Ripperton-sampling 'A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld', but even with its original runtime of almost two hours, Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld is a record that begs to be played from start to finish and is a bizarre but joyous trip through psychedelia, trance, acid house and ambient soundscapes.
Why should I revisit?
The Orb were a pretty unique entity even amidst the eclectic house music scene of the late 80s and early 90s and Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld set the template for many of the seminal dance music albums that followed throughout the latter decade. While Cauty would go on to produce one of the most far-out examples of ambient house with KLF's Chill Out, he and Drummond notoriously deleted their entire back catalogue, so while it's worth hunting down a copy, Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld is certainly a lot easier to get your hands on.
Who will enjoy it?
Anyone regulars of the early 90s club scene will no doubt already be aware of The Orb's output, but for any new initiates or fans of house music in general this is a great place to start mining the back catalogue of one of the genre's most unique acts.