Orb Blue Room 07 (2)

I blame the X-Files for dragging me back.  I’d had a tough week, unusually for me, I’d barely listened to any music at all* preferring just to sit and read on my commute and lose myself in films and a bit of gaming in the evenings, truth be told it was quite pleasant to take a total aural break.  My wife and I recently introduced my eldest to X-Files and it has been a lot of fun to revisit the early episodes, when the programme came on like a grown-up Scooby Doo, all bright torches and trips to rural Dakota to see what’s been eviscerating the cattle this week**.

Orb Blue Room 03

Anyway, this led to me spending an idle hour I dipped my feet into the realm of internet UFO-freakology.  Wow.  There are some interesting ladies and gentlemen out there, usually called things like Dr Dwight Wendell Wylde III and citing some pretty wigged-out theories.  This led to me reading up on Project Blue Book, Hanger 18 (‘The Blue Room’) etc. etc.  After a little taste of space, I found myself, as if by magic, grooving along to 1537 ambient faves The Orb Blue Room.

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Now Blue Room was a single released in 1992, from their mighty U.F.Orb LP, a real game-changing album for me at the time.  I say a single, but at 39:57 long it is about the same length as 2 classic Van Halen albums.  Pranksters always, The Orb scaled-up their puny 17-minute long LP version as a reaction to the UK charts declaring that a single could not be over 40 minutes in length, in just the sort of smart-arsed, ultimately pointless, gesture that appeals to me hugely.  Even better was their appearance on Top of The Pops^ when they just sat and played chess for their allotted 4 minute span, causing outrage amongst musical conservatives and those frankly in search of a life, alike^^.

Orb Blue Room 02Orb Blue Room 05 (2)

Blue Room was co-written by Steve Hillage and Jah Wobble, who weave in strangely distorted guitar and bowel-quaking bass at various points in proceedings.  As with the best Orb offerings samples are used cleverly and sparingly, there’s a hint of Weather Report at the beginning and the ghost of Marilyn Monroe singing ‘Happy birthday, Mr President’ at the very end as well as the usual snatches of dialogue.  However this is a track that is about textures and production, rather than showing off an obscure record collection and a modern interpretation of dubbed out spaciness, rather than ambience.  Were I one of those awful stoner types that I read about occasionally, then this 12″ would make a pleasing accompaniment to a marathon session of watching Demon Seed, Logan’s Run and, especially, Dark Star in a darkened room.  Man.

As anything of this length does, Blue Room ebbs and flows, slides and glides from section to section but the beats and basslines, which are never far away from the surface do propel the track forwards, preventing it vanishing up its’ own behind.  There is a great section about halfway in with some distorted pedal steel guitar, or so it sounds to me, that prefigures the mood of The Orb’s 2010 collaboration with Dave Gilmour, Metallic Spheres.  Mostly though this is a clever, playfully expansive release which, quite bizarrely, reached #8 on the UK pop charts and I like what that says about my fellow country persons.

Far out and gone.

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625 Down.


*apart from The Temperance Movement White Bear, the finest LP released in 2016 … so far, probably, that I’ve heard, this year and played twice so far.

**before it got too weighty and boringly tied-up in its own grand conspiracy.  I would also like it recorded that my flame still burns hot for Gillian Anderson, undiminished by all the years.

^UK’s main weekly music show back then – British institution, compulsory watching for millions.

^^and apparently changing Robbie Williams’ life forever in the process.

29 thoughts on “39:57

  1. So.

    What I got from this story is Gillian Anderson pops her top while spinning an Orb, then goes to the Blue Room, where she wants a 12″ as a pleasing accompaniment to a marathon session.

    This goes on for 39:57 and then chess is played.

    Got it.

  2. Logan’s Run, now there’s a film I haven’t seen in ages. When I saw it in the cinema as a teen in the 70s, I thought the effects were state of the art. It’s amazing how quick effects become obsolete.

  3. Only The Flaming Lips would be off the map enough these days to through out a slice of album length bonkersness as a single. In fact, they’d be off the map enough to make a song last a whole 24 hours. Could you imagine that. Jings.

    As for the X-Files. I fell away from that after the 3rd season. A few years ago I convinced my wife to commit to watching the whole thing. Safe to say she’ll never listen to me again whenit comes to TV. What a load of drivel.

    … but I did get laughs from the “shoopa sholjers”. Man, shoop sholjers rock.

    Also, I was sad they never done an animated spinoff called Where’s Mulder.

  4. Never heard Orb. Not sure they’re my thang. Mood enhancers have never been welcome since I listened to Time by PF on mushrooms and realised that the entire Earth was a giant timepiece and I was just a very precise little cog meshing against my will with every other cog. I got a digital watch (which I thought was a pretty neat idea, thanks Douglas) and that has helped me recover.
    As for the x-files, yes, success does breed the desire to stretch a good idea until it snaps, doesn’t it not.But I’m with you on Gilly. She’s nerd fodder and I’m a bedroom bovine, mooo boy! Not enough of her in War and Peace (But not enough of anything in that adaptation,it’s like Tolstoy for Dummies).
    And finally, is the internet full of weird conspiracy theories? Jebus,what have they done to that hallowed space? Last time I looked it was all full of helpful tips on how to print a copyright symbol on your Mac and lots of pictures of kittens. Isn’t anything sacred?

    1. I know who’d have thought there were oddballs and insaniacs out there on the Internet?!

      Btw I totally agree with you on W&P, it’s a tabloid version. I read it when I was 16, understood about a fifth of it and reread it a few years ago and it hit me like a bolt of lightning.

      Nerd fodder? Moooo!!

  5. Oh, and as far as X-Files, I’d never seen it when it was popular, so my lovely wife and I started on the DVDs from the library and it was fun watching for a while. But you’re right, at a certain point it just sort of becomes… I dunno. Maybe if I’d started watching it half a lifetime ago when it was first on, I might be nostalgic about it now. But starting it now, with my refined and serious tastes (natch), it didn’t hold for me.

  6. Man, this record sounds pretty far out there. It’d have been the perfect soundtrack for the day I devoted two hours of happy clicking on the internets after simply Googling “conspiracy theories.” WOW. There is a lot of stuff out there.

    Anyway, it maybe wouldn’t necessarily be what I’d wanna play for enjoyment tunes all the time, but something like this, with the proper amount of liquid enhancement and a nice mellow evening could make this a fun chunk of music once in a while.

    Also, nice dig at VH. 🙂

    1. I liked Bleak House too, but there’s just something alluring about her in X-Files.

      I think Metallic Spheres is a bit boring after 15 minutes, or so. I do remember an interesting interview with the Orb and Gilmour circa ’94 where he expressed a lot of admiration fort what they did.

  7. Congrats on getting the oldest started on X-Files. It’s a rite of passage. All of my kids are fans. Once it got gummed up in the alien conspiracy I got bored, but as a whole one of the finest shows in the last 20 years

    And Gillian still has it. Oh yes.

  8. That is weird. I was just researching David Gilmour side projects tonight and came upon the release you wrote about.

    As for the Temperance Movement, I saw them open for Deep Purple last summer, and Phil Campbell goes into another place. I think he is Joe Cocker reincarnated. I bought their first album and liked it, bought thought the band was better live. I might do a post about a band being better live, or better in studio. Now I need this new album to compare.

    As for Gillian Anderson. I have first dibs. She is the only famous person that has the exact same birthday as me. Karma sometimes is awesome.

    1. Much more radical too, at the time. Another dance act at the time got banned from the show for clearly leaving their synths unplugged, with the plugs ostentatiously draped over them, whilst miming.

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