Not much has changed in the universe since the release of The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld. Sure, we’ve got two rovers on Mars, a space probe skirting the edges of Saturn’s famous rings, and, oh yeah, the universe might not be so infinite after all, but the sounds of space—and space music—remain more or less unchanged. Essentially six years have passed since the last Orb album (Cydonia sat on a shelf for the better part of three years before being released in 2001), so Bicycles & Tricycles had the potential to be something of a departure for Dr. Alex Paterson and his revolving line-up of sonic scientists. But the album—despite the seemingly earthly implications of its title—is a homecoming for The Orb, but not the terrestrial kind. After flying 25 miles above the Earth on Ultraworld, returning to the planet on 1995’s Orbus Terrarum, and then exploring life on Mars on Cydonia—which was named after the region of the red planet where scientists allegedly discovered the image of a human face—Paterson has reunited with some old friends for yet another voyage into space. Paterson believes in 12-year cycles, which is more or less the amount of time between the arrival of The Orb’s U.S. debut and 2004’s Bicycles & Tricycles. “The Land Of Green Ginger” is classic Orb chill-out a la “Little Fluffy Clouds,” complete with a cameo from Ultraworld‘s rooster, even if the narration, courtesy of spoken word artist Neville Jason, is a bit contrived. “Kompania” quietly honks like the foghorn of a space probe sifting through stardust debris in the form of surface noise and navigating through chunks of space-rock, but it’s the collisions that make the best sounds, while “Hell’s Kitchen,” co-written and produced by bleep techno-meister Nick Roome (alias Witchman), is ambient house perfected. Though these songs often lack the grandeur of old Orb inventions like “Into The Fourth Dimension,” the album’s strength is its economy. Now if only we could hear the undoubtedly epic mixes from which these tracks were spliced.
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