Freewheeling through time and space, Kris Needs continues his adventures in sound. This month: The Orb
In terms of my immediate radar, last year was dominated by The Orb. This looks like spilling into 2021 with the delayed publication of our book, ‘Babble On An’ Ting: Alex Paterson’s Incredible Journey Beyond The Ultraworld With The Orb’ in May, along with recent stellar retrospective ‘Auntie Aubrey’s Excursions Beyond the Call Of Duty Part 3: The Orb Remix Project’.
Next comes ‘Abolition Of The Royal Familia – Guillotine Mixes’, a revisitation with astral hanging, drawing and quartering from fellow travellers including David Harrow, Youth, Tony Thorpe, Andy Falconer, Gaudi, Paul Conboy, The Lost Stoned Pandas, plus me and Dom Beken reinterpreting ‘The Weekend It Rained Forever’ as an Ibiza sunset anthem.
Doing this with Dom, Alex’s long-time collaborator and HFB cohort who, it must be stressed, did all the studio graft that made it happen, was last year’s most surreal highlight next to getting a phone call from Keith Richards. Isolating since March to protect my mum, with only my brilliant dog Jack for company, the last thing I expected to be doing was my first Orb remix for several years.
As I said in the cover notes, our version was a product of the lockdown that grew angel’s wings and flew. Probably ignited that lovely afternoon a year ago when Alex and I convened at Dom’s picturesque Great Missenden cottage/studio and wallowed like blissful hippos in the newly-arrived ‘Abolition’.
Dom and I had worked together before on Orb remixes and his Years Of The Canine project with MC Dynamax, and so we knew it could only be a blast when Alex asked us to contribute to the venture. For me, it had to be ‘The Weekend It Rained Forever’, Roger Eno’s poignant piano motif asking to be further fondled, because it conjured Jack’s placid smile and Helen, his departed mummy.
During the 90s, I did scores of remixes in studios with desks, computers and analogue arsenals, but never like this. After lengthy phone discussions about how it should sound, and inspired by Andrew Weatherall’s shimmering overhaul of The Grid’s ‘Floatation’, Dom worked his magic.
He sent work-in-progress for consideration, its testicles lathered with new keyboard lines and perfect beats, a stunningly beautiful masterpiece gradually emerging. When Dom sent me the finished piece, I sat there with Jack, rapt, back on a beach in Ibiza with him and Helen. Quite overwhelming.
Looking back, how could that not be the highlight of last year? We can only hope that 2021 will be a cut above the weird isolation dream we have all just been through.