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COW / Chill Out, World! [Slipcase] *
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  • Audio Mixers: Alex Paterson ; Thomas Fehlmann.
  • Recording information: Meridian Studios; Space Mountain.
  • Ambient techno legends the Orb spent much of 2016 touring the world to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their seminal debut album, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. During their travels, they engaged in several impromptu recording sessions, piecing together field recordings captured on tour, samples from records found at thrift stores, and highlights from their gigs. The result is COW / Chill Out, World!, the most spontaneous album in the group's discography to date. Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann have described the release as their most ambient effort yet, which seemingly puts it in the company of mid-'90s recordings such as Pomme Fritz and Orbus Terrarum. While those two releases reached into the darker, stranger corners of the Orb's psyche, COW is much lighter and more relaxing, explicitly making its intentions clear with its title. The album is intended as a sort of peaceful protest, reacting to tragic news and political nonsense by encouraging everyone to calm down and enjoy life. COW arrives a year after the J Dilla-influenced Moonbuilding 2703 AD, and it almost seems like an ambient dub version of that album, covering similar sonic ground but without building the tracks into ten-minute epics. Traces of laid-back rhythms and swirling disco strings surface throughout the 43-minute duration, and everything is bathed in a warm glow of vinyl crackle and reverb. The title is an obvious nod to the KLF's Chill Out, to which Paterson made an uncredited contribution, and it also alludes to the animal on the cover of Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother. The album is filled with the sounds of chirping birds and buzzing insects rather than barnyard animal noises, however. "9 Elms Over River Eno (Channel 9)" was inspired by a trip to the Eno River in North Carolina, but its hypnotic melody sounds much closer to minimalist composer Philip Glass than ambient godfather Brian Eno. It wouldn't be an Orb album without humorous vocal samples, so there's CB radio chatter thrown in as well. The album succeeds in creating a calm state of mind, but it never dwells in one place for too long, sounding more excited than it might seem on the surface. ~ Paul Simpson
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