The Orb | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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In most people's minds, ambient house overbrains the Orb might as well be a solo project of mastermind Alex Paterson, even though he's always used a rotating cast of collaborators that's included members of the KLF, Fortran 5, and Killing Joke. Berlin-based techno-head Thomas Fehlmann has been a constant since partnering with Paterson in FFWD--an early 90s "ambient supergroup" including Robert Fripp and then Orb member Kris Weston--and he's just as central to the Orb's ever mutating psychedelectronica. True to its title, the pair's latest effort, last year's Okie Dokie It's the Orb on Kompakt, wasn't just released on Kompakt but comes closer to the focused robotic-dance mainline that's the label's specialty than anything the two have jointly produced. Though Kompakt has also put out a handful of Fehlmann's solo 12-inches, the Orb's apparent embrace of the Kompakt aesthetic shouldn't be taken as evidence that the elusive Dr. P has deferred to his continental cohort. In fact, the new album's combination of Fehlmann's razor-edged microhouse musculature with Paterson's purely ambient textures--reemphasized here after less successful excursions into hip-hop-flavored stuff in the early aughts--may be the Orbiest thing since 1995's Orbus Terrarum. Certainly its tripped-out minimalism and palette of glowing, high-contrast grays--on songs from the pulse-propelled "Ripples" to the drifting, wispy "Kompagna (Zandic Mix)"--make for the best dispatch from the ultraworld in a while, a small triumph of elegant, endlessly regressive permutation. Mon 3/27, 9 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $20, 18+.

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