Music

The Orb feat. David Gilmour: Metallic Spheres

The sound of Pink Floyd's lead guitar sits on top of the Orb's music rather than inside of it. That's good, but not good enough.


The Orb featuring David Gilmour

Metallic Spheres

Label: Columbia
US Release Date: 2010-10-12
UK Release Date: 2010-10-11
Label website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

When you think about it long enough, a collaboration between the Orb and David Gilmour seems natural. If Pink Floyd was the band that found a hidden door that sucked hippies in on one side and spit astronauts out the other, then Alex Paterson has been out on regular space walks since 1991. Their objectives in music lie on a similar plane, though they approach them from different angles. Armed with a lap steel or a Fender Strat and buoyed by the keys of the late Richard Wright, Gilmour rolled his sounds around in outer space again and again until he stumbled upon a sweet spot. Paterson and a rotating cast of colleagues have made a career as dub garbage pickers, constructing and dismantling sound collages made of samples, beats, and just about any miscellaneous random noise they could grab. The best of both the Floyd and Orb worlds offers up music that doesn't sound earthbound, and a combination of the two could be a great double wormhole just waiting to hypnotize listeners. Unfortunately, the Orb and Gilmour collaboration Metallic Spheres spends more time searching for an anchor than it does breaking through into transcendence.

The album plots its course over two tracks in 49 minutes, leaving lots of room for the slow-changing ebb and flow that the Orb like to use. The issue of time use wouldn't be a big deal if a majority of it wasn't spent fishing. Gilmour's lines, especially the ones from the lap steel, just sort of sprawl all over the scale hoping to find an idea that will stick. The elements thrown down by Paterson and producer Martin "Youth" Glover, though lacking ambition and variance, are a customarily welcome presence. The shifts in movement (five to a side) are as subtle as Orb tradition dictates, completely blurring the end of track one and the start of track two. But when a world famous guest guitarist sounds like another superimposed sample that was bloodlessly grafted into the big picture, it gives you a case of the what-could-have-beens.

The ending of Metallic Spheres is far more glorious than the vamping that precedes it. Track one, "Metallic Side", is the longer of the two, but it's the second one, "Spheres Side", that comes closest to discovering trance magic. The closing half of the track comes into a full bloom that can't really be accurately described as clubby or trance or space-rock. This is a part of the album that doesn't concern itself with dance elements, and Metallic Spheres is all the better for it. It's simply a synthesizer as big as all outdoors, if you can believe that -- as big as the English countryside, as grand as Terrence Malick cinematography. These realizations belong more to the Orb than Gilmour, reducing the mighty guitarist behind the solos of "Time" and "Money" to just being a provider of nifty little afterthoughts.

As is the case with many big league collaborations, it doesn't feel like either party brought their best game to the project. As an Orb album, Metallic Spheres is satisfactory. For Floyd and Gilmour fans, it's a rainy day curiosity. With age, ambition certainly has a tendency to fade. If Alex Paterson and David Gilmour have made some of the most successful celestial music around, this new collaboration is steeped more like Celestial Seasonings Herbal Tea: it's palatable, but it won't make you want to run into the street to stop traffic. Well, maybe the final ten minutes of it.

6

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image