Assassin by The Orb, a 12″ but nearly album length – the Orb at their peak did a few of these. Incidentally, obsessive devotees I bought this the same day I bought Freewheelin‘ – now do you see the value of little stickers with the date on?!!
Obviously going to university at the height of the Madchester boom and the upsurge in dance music, or techno as we quaintly called it back then I took full stock of my surroundings and in the true spirit of adventure and discovery, using all my resources of open-mindedness and curiosity that you feel when you’re that age – I arbitrarily decided it was all crap; not proper music, like Poison and Faster Pussycat, obviously. It was a passing fad which would soon blow over. People didn’t really like it, they just pretended to. What did Altern8 think they looked like?
Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but not by much. I loved the KLF, but then again they were a rock group in all but, umm, music. I did really buy into the Orb though. They snuck into my consciousness by sneakily evoking Pink Floyd and their quieter passages (I don’t remember anyone using the word ‘ambient’ back then). By the time I bought Assassin, minutes after it came out, I had played U.F.Orb to death. The reviews at the time were not overly glowing but I really liked it as soon as I played the beast.
Over 15 minutes of spritely but sparse beats, interesting washes of sound and dub I was sold. Most importantly for me there was a sense of destination and melody to it all, it wasn’t just aimless time-filling it was going somewhere. Oh and a bloody great big brass band near the end. As any self-respecting self-consciously over-dramatic youngster does, I spent whole evenings with the lights off listening to it over and over, absorbing it (surely no coincidence). The B-side, a remix of an U.F.Orb track was fine, but a bit irrelevant.
It was funny though I was, and still am, in uncertain territory with electronic / non-jazz non-guitar music. I can spot a good, or a great track pretty quickly, but I would struggle to tell you why it’s good, or how it’s good. You give me a more conventional rock / pop / whatever track, no matter how challenging, or dissonant, or complex and I could tell you how and why it is good, or not, to me anyway. My critical toolbox just doesn’t work once you take it away from source, maybe that means you get a less-clouded, less-studied, more honest assessment. Maybe all this dance stuff was there to stay…