Saturday, July 13, 2013

Album Review: The Orb and Lee Scratch Perry – More Tales From The Orbservatory (2013)

Well, this was something of a surprise – a second outing for The Orb and Lee Scratch Perry. I hadn’t anticipated any follow-up to 2012’s The Orbserver In The Star House, let alone an almost immediate one. More Tales From The Orbservatory gives us a further eleven cuts from the Berlin Orbserver sessions.
 Perhaps the biggest surprise of all though is that as an album it all comes together so well. That as a set of tracks not initially considered worthy of release, everything gels together so nicely. The album feels every bit the cohesive and fluent whole it was probably never intended to be, and it stands as testimony to the chemistry and genius of what is now starting to feel like a perfectly natural heavyweight collaboration of talent and ideas.

When I say eleven cuts, what I actually mean is five new songs, five instrumental versions of said songs, plus a charming little interlude (‘Tight Interlude’) which clocks in at just over a minute long. The quality control factor is so high, it’s fair to say that none of these tracks would have been out of place on the debut, and you have to wonder just how many more quality leftovers have been left on the shelf.

Opener ‘Fussball’ is an infectious trip into the simple joys of football, with Perry intoning “pass de ball … kick de ball … win de game” over some deep housey spaced-out electro goodness. Despite its apparent simplicity, its precision and careful use of repetition works well as an attention grabbing album starter.
‘Africa’ is typical Perry, a so-called “message” track to some extent (“let’s enjoy de eart dat god has give us”), one that hits its mark mainly because of the moments of oddball humour provided in Perry’s stream of consciousness delivery. The glitchy electronic shuffle that passes for a beat provides an almost perfect contrast to Perry’s vocal. It’s a great little track.
‘Making Love In Dub’ probably just shades ‘Fussball’ as the album’s highlight. Where Perry dominates the majority of material on More Tales From The Orbservatory, Alex Paterson’s Orb influence is much more obvious and immediate on this one – it feels fuller, a little more complex somehow, and this track definitely works on a more cerebral level than any of the others.

‘No Ice Age’ and ‘Don’t Rush I’ (a Perry mission statement?) round things off – and both tracks are pretty decent – before we get the five instrumental versions spread across the second half of the album. If there is any filler here, if any of this could be regarded as throwaway or leftover material, then I suppose a particularly sticky finger could be directed at this “version” stuff. But even that response feels hard hearted; instrumental versions have long been a staple of dub/dubplate tradition, and I think there’s some value added with their inclusion here.

So I’m loving this album right now. An unheralded, under-the-radar arrival; for all that it is a continuation of the same themes and ideas we got on The Orbserver In The Star House, it’s also a great little album in its own right.

I hadn’t expected any of it, and it somehow feels all the sweeter for that.


Here’s ‘Fussball’:

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