32 years after its formation, The Orb follows the genre-hopping 2018 treasure No Sounds Are Out Of Bounds with this equally cerebral new LP. Abolition Of The Royal Familia is the Alex Paterson helmed unit’s 17th album, featuring contributions from Youth, Roger Eno, David Harrow, Steve Hillage and System 7’s Miquette Giraudy. It also marks the beginning of a new creative partnership with studio engineer and live member Michael Rendall.
Beginning nicely with mellow grooves, and echoes of Gil Scott-Heron, ‘Missing For Daze’ is a fine piece of intergalactic soul music, and the mesmerising ‘House Of Narcotics’ grows from dubby disco into cowbell-assisted house, not unlike what George Clinton fronting Kraftwerk might sound like. On the cosmologist-inspired ‘Hawk Kings’, smart techno is powered by a pumping rhythm, while ‘Honey Moonies’ brings house music from other dimensions and trickles of percussive notes.
The album flows into a more introspective territory with ‘Pervitin’s washes of euphoria topped with French/German dialogue, and wonderfully evocative trumpet. It’s a vibe that continues with the blissful soundscapes and desolate beauty of ‘Afros, Afghans and Angels’, as well as the dazzling ambient jazz moods of the centrepiece ‘Shape Shifters’, which themselves shift shape into some delicious dub with rootsy passages.
‘Say Cheese’ provides a bit of classic Orb ambient reggae not too far from that of their early output, this time complemented with melodica and what sounds like a theremin. After ‘Ital Orb”s weed-infused dub groove, and the propulsive motorik jungle sounds found on ‘The Queen Of Hearts’, the record drifts peacefully into the Floyd-tinted ‘The Weekend It Rained Forever’, where rain sounds and dreamy piano flow alongside sparse ripples of guitar and swelling synth chords.
On the closing ‘Slave Till You Die No Matter What You Buy’, white noise and warm textures suddenly turn frighteningly apt in these current times with sirens following the warnings to “stay in your homes, the curfew is at 7 pm sharp… no more than two people must gather anywhere without permission”. More timely than Paterson and co could’ve ever imagined.
A refreshingly eclectic range of electronic styles are given a cohesive quality due to the noticeable stages the album develops through over the course of its ambitious 12 tracks. Another fine addition to their discography.