FUN FACT: It was because of the artwork to this album that I obsessively scrawled onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome onourwayhome on my pencil case at school. I also had a very passable u.f.orb logo drawn on it too.

In The Blue Room

I had my first “close encounter” with The Orb in 1992 when the single Blue Room was in the charts. Back then, as I mentioned previously, I would listen to the radio a lot and this tune - introduced as the longest single ever to enter the UK chart - struck me as really interesting. The radio edit was a burbling wash of synths and female vocals underpinned by a hefty bass performance from Jah Wobble. Incidentally, the same week that Blue Room entered the chart, I was actually listening out for Sentinel by Mike Oldfield and this single (from Tubular Bells II) featured two remixes by The Orb.

Be careful what you wish for though, the full length version of Blue Room (39:58) is a little too long to be interesting, particularly if you are paying close attention. The album version (17:34) is excellent and is probably the correct length for all its movements and such, while the live version (14:58) released on the Live ‘93 is probably the best recorded version that is available.

“The World Of Objective Contents Of Thoughts…”

Speaking of Live ‘93, this was the first Orb album that I ended up owning. It is a sprawling two and a half hour set that includes all the best tunes from between 1989 and 1993. When I dislocated my knee on the school playground in 1994, it would be the version of OOBE from this album that I would focus on to help me through that terrible pain.

OOBE has a wonderfully niggling riff that builds and repeats. Like most of The Orb’s early work, it is the spaces between the musical figures and the vocal samples that really contributes to the atmosphere of the piece. The album version is far and away the best version and I would not hear that until about a year later when I got U.F.Orb for my fifteenth birthday.

Other interesting versions of OOBE are the session version on the second Peel Sessions disc (and later the BBC Sessions 1999-2001 album) and the version by the late Andy Hughes that is included on the bonus disc of the remaster. Both of these version tease out the acoustic guitar melodies that are somewhat buried on the original and both take on a more fairy-tale quality as opposed to album version’s dark trip through the unknowable depths of the mind.

Babylon and Ting

Another track on the album with a large number of alternate versions is Towers Of Dub, it features a gently lilting dub figure and the number of dog barks present in the mix is dependent on the version you are listening to. I gradually came to accept the album version (15:00) as canonical with its hilarious Victor Lewis-Smith intro and light smattering of woofs. Newcomers though are invited to sample the delights of the version of Live ‘93 (12:33) as it completely destroys the gentleness of the original with a cavernous beat and the barks of some sort of demented ambient Cerberus. Meanwhile the ambient mix (10:00) included on the greatest hits compilation U.F.Off (see what they did there?!) is much gentler and closes out with a pretty funny comedy skit involving a car with trunk full of weed that still makes me giggle to this day. There’s also a version by Mad Professor (14:58) that drifts close to (and may well have been the inspiration for) the insanity of the live version.

The three tracks OOBE, Blue Room and Towers Of Dub comprise over half the playing time of the album. The four remaining tracks are interesting too. The title track U.F.Orb should probably have featured more in their live sets and in their remixes, there is one by Bandulu (7:46) that turns it into a trancy banger but there appear to be no other versions of the track (even on the reissue).

Close Encounter, Majestic and Sticky End…

The other two long tracks on the album, Close Encounter and Majestic, are also rarely reprised throughout the remainder of the discography. I think there is an alternative version of Majestic on a Trance Europe Express compilation somewhere but the only other mixes of these two tracks are the “ambient mix” of the former (12:50) and the supposed original cut of the latter (11:53) that appear on the reissue. Close Encounter is a stormy downtempo dance track that fits the album’s mood of alien visitation, it is a collaboration with Slam. Majestic refers to the persons supposedly in the know about the Roswell incident, the Majestic 12; it has a lovely sample of Mr. Spock (or someone who sounds very much like him) saying “wake up”.

The album ends with Sticky End, a pretty Ronseal track for the end of an album about aliens. It features some slowed down analogue synths that sound like a big squelchy alien coming unstuck. Fortunately it doesn’t last too long, though I am surprised that there isn’t at least a fan-made extended remix out there. Maybe there is… look to the skies…