The Orb featuring David Gilmour - Metallic Spheres - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Orb featuring David Gilmour - Metallic Spheres

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2010-10-11

In so many ways, this is a match made in Heaven. The Orb, ambient house pioneers, have hooked up with Pink Floyd's weathered axe legend Gilmour to craft to long, shifting pieces of music which combine the former's gently undulating, world music-indebted beats with the latter's inimitable (okay - widely imitated) yearning guitar sounds. For anyone who spent a bit of time, probably in the early to mid-90s, exploring a muddy festival field or the furthest regions of their own minds to either band's music, this resulting album is more than a little exciting.

Unfortunate, then, that's it's such a dull affair, but not terribly surprising. Neither band is particularly known for their love of high-octane beats but, even so, Metallic Spheres really is a bit of a snooze-fest. The opening 'Metallic Side' kicks things off in low-key style with some plodding, very dated sounding beats and some of the most Gilmour-sounding guitar work Gilmour has ever recorded. Musically, it's hard not to draw comparisons to Mike Oldfield's peerless work of sonic wankery, Tubular Bells. It really doesn't sound like either party put a lot of effort in, the results sounding decidedly 'phoned-in'. This bland sound eventually mutates into a frankly weird segment which resolves the question of what it would sound like if Dave Gilmour ever released a hip hop record, as he croaks, bafflingly, "You better believe in justice" over some chunky beats.

Thankfully, from here things improve somewhat, a we reach an ambient dub section, enlivened which lots of spacey effects and drifting snatches of dialogue which recall 1992's excellent U.F.Orb. This is followed by some bucolic folksy strumming which sounds very much like the work of Gilmour alone. As pleasant as it is, this section is also seriously middle-of-the-road, plodding and boring, and listeners may want to use it as a convenient point to go for a toilet break. Don't worry, you're not missing anything. The next section, full of chimes, drones and sitar buzz, is much more interesting, recalling the ambient head music produced by 70s Krautrock types such as Popol Vuh and Amon Düül II. You can practically smell the incense and hear the Baader-Meinhof Group banging on the door. There's even a witty sonic reference to the Floyd's 'On the Run' when some scudding, fizzing electronic noise whizzes by.

The second 'side', 'Sphere Side', gets off to a good start with some murky ambient sounds and dubby atmospherics. Unfortunately, from there on the beats get lumpen and the guitar gets more rawk. The result is just poor. It has to be said that the record's best moments indisputably come from The Orb ('Dr' Alex Paterson, joined by auxiliary member Youth), especially on 'Sphere Side', which eventually meanders in some interesting directions (It's far more fragmented then the first side, so we won't recount every musical shift which occurs). Gilmour's guitar is, for the most part, reduced to little more than window dressing, often remaining low in the mix and adding little to the overall sound. Maybe he just wasn't very committed to the project; it certainly doesn't sound like he stretched himself or devoted much time to it. In fact, mostly it sounds like he just jammed half heartedly along to a backing track in the studio. Whatever, it's a little sad. Metallic Spheres isn't bad, overall, but you sense it could have been much more interesting if those involved had pushed themselves more.

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