The Orb and Lee “Scratch” Perry
The ORBSERVER in the Star House
Release Date: August 28, 2012
- Ball of Fire
- Man in the Moon
- Golden Clouds
- Hold Me Upsetter
- Go Down Evil
- Police & Thieves
As we all know, there are some moments in our lives that initially may feel as though it were by chance but in retrospect may seem as though they were destined to happen. In the case of the Orb’s collaboration with reggae’s legendary (and beloved) eccentric Lee “Scratch” Perry, has its start back in 2004 when the Orb’s Dr. Alex Patterson played a DJ and toaster set in Mexico with Perry. Meanwhile, the Orb’s Thomas Fehrmann had been an instrumental member of Berlin’s electronica scene when he was a member of avant garde act Palais Schaumberg in the 1980s before becoming a major part of the city’s underground techno scene.
When the news hit of The ORBSERVER in the Star House’s August 28th release, the album had to be among a list of the most unusual, strangest and perhaps even most exciting collaborations in recent memory. Among some groups of listeners there had to be questions on how it would even work – especially those who may be more rigid, and in turn, less sophisticated in their tastes. Unlike the collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed, which was lambasted and openly mocked by critics and fans for barely making sense and being terrible, there’s a sense of artists finding a purely organic simpatico. In fact, as both Fehrmann and Patterson noted, they had initially had four backing tracks pre-recorded for the sessions, but Perry had been so creative that he had begun improvising on the spot. Once Perry found a flow, the duo had to continually keep coming up with beats to keep it going. And ultimately the result is an album that manages to feel like a mesmerizing, unpredictable, Technicolor dream.
Speaking of simpatico, sonically the Orb’s bass heavy, rollicking beats manage to allow Perry’s vocals to float and dart in between, around and with the beats, creating a psychedelic hue to his lyrics. And by lyrics I really should say pronouncements on the nature of man’s soul, of spirituality, love and of man’s place in the universe – often with mischievous, playful, childlike wonder and awe, all while alluding to the Bible here and there, as well as Rastafarian tenets. “Golden Clouds,” a reworking of an old children’s song, manages to capture this endless sense of wonder, as it has Perry reflecting on when he was a child. In a world that at times seems utterly hopeless, and inching closer to a dystopian nightmare, Lee Perry manages to be voice of overwhelmingly audacious hope and love.
The ORBSERVER in the Star House is by far one of the most unique sounding albums I’ve yet to hear this year, and it may well be the most strikingly different album I’ve personally heard in some time. On repeated listens I’ve discovered something entirely new every time such as the sudden and playful homage to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition,” you’ll come across during “Soulman,” or the brief skit about smoking weed that comes up towards the end of “Hold Me Upsetter.” This is an album that has quickly become part of my regular rotation, and it’s certain to be on my end of the year list.