Album Review: The Orb, ‘COW/Chill Out, World!’

Written by Andrew Howie


If you’ve read any of my latest columns, I’ve mentioned my love of downtempo, lo-fi electronica. Chillwave, whatever you want to call it. Europe has long led the charge of electronic music of all varieties, and one of the most interesting and all-encompassing is England’s The Orb. Consisting mainly of British psychedelic electronic artist Alex Paterson, The Orb have carried on the tradition of Tangerine Dream dipped in Pink Floyd; exotic, ethereal sonic landscapes that meander formlessly through the void. The Orb’s newest album, COW/Chill Out, World!, is just that: a chilled out world.

This is definitely in the category of sleepytime albums, while at the same time being interesting enough to engage you. It follows the strict Orb tradition of being unpredictable. If I had to describe it, it would be the musical equivalent of rain droplets landing on a pond as the storm ebbs and flows. It’s bizarre and enveloping, intense yet calming. It feels like a whole universe within the album.

I don’t know enough about The Orb to know if this music is more composed or more improvisational, because it wanders through so many different time signatures and sparse moments that you have to wonder if this was planned out or just made up on the spot. Simultaneously evoking the Grateful Dead’s famed “Space” odysseys and Pink Floyd’s dissonant experimental stretches, this music takes you on a trip down a dark but beautiful path. This is music for people who love to dissect music. There are all sorts of little bloops and quorks hidden in the background, just waiting for you to hear them the next time you listen.

As far as listenability goes, this album requires a certain amount of concentration to full appreciate it, but it’s definitely worth it if you can give it the attention it needs. I wouldn’t recommend it for studying or reading, because you’ll simply miss too much. I had to listen to it repeatedly because I kept trying to do stuff around the house, and I just could not focus on everything that was going.

Complicated yet rewarding, this is an album I would recommend to serious fans of music in any genre. There’s something here for everybody to love. For me, it’s my new rainy day/meditation album. I hope it comes to mean something to you as well. Happy listening, friends.

Rating: 9 out of 10