THE ORB with WITCHMAN at the Guvernment (132 Queen's Quay East), Sunday (April 22). $20. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
Alex Patterson's new record label is called Bad Orb.This could refer to the London producer/DJ's unpleasant experiences with his own group, legendary ambient dub crew the Orb. Or to the fact that things aren't going particularly well for Patterson these days.
Sonic co-conspirator Andy Hughes has stormed out of the Orb fold. The new Orb disc, Cydonia, arrives four years late and almost a decade after Patterson redefined British dance music by making it virtually undanceable. The disc was rumoured to be a return to Patterson's past ambient glory after he lost his way on widely panned records like Orblivion and Orbus Terrarum.
To a degree, that's true. Patterson's smoked-out dub obsession is in full effect, with the DJ swirling together curtains of bass and waves of reverb-heavy rhythms that chug along gloriously at a snail's pace.
Absent are the ill-conceived stabs at jungle that bogged down recent releases. Sadly, Patterson's attempt to recapture the delirious thump of old sounds more like an Orb cover band than an interesting new release.
Maybe he was saving his good ideas for Bad Orb. The Internet-only label is releasing one new record a month. Previews are offered in advance online and only the number of records ordered will be pressed. Each single comes with a T-shirt, and both become extinct at the end of each month. The samples already online at www.badorb.com are more probing than anything Patterson's been affiliated with for years. Perhaps the risky, renegade dub scientist isn't finished after all.