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No Sounds Are Out of Bounds
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  • Following two relatively streamlined releases for Kompakt (including 2016's COW / Chill Out, World!, the closest they've come to producing a purely ambient album), the Orb decided to make a more ambitious, diverse, collaboration-heavy album in the spirit of some of their earlier works. On 2018's No Sounds Are Out of Bounds, Dr. Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann are joined by past contributors Youth, Jah Wobble, Roger Eno, and Gaudi in addition to a host of newcomers. The tracks range from some of the Orb's poppiest, most accessible songs yet to lengthy ambient dub epics, all peppered with the group's trademark offbeat, humorous samples. On the pop side, there's the trap-influenced "The End of the End," featuring Emma Gillespie, and the ecstatic pop-reggae of "Rush Hill Road," with the always marvelous Hollie Cook. These are miles away from the ambitious, multi-part collage suite "Soul Planet," which moves from sparse, chilling pianos and dramatic soul shouting to a minimal techno thump with disco strings, somehow incorporating opera vocals, CB radio chatter, and a Looney Tunes sample along the way. COW was intended as a sort of peaceful protest album, and No Sounds continues with this in some aspects -- it's generally relaxing and upbeat, but there's a pronounced antiwar theme running through it all. The bubbly, airhorn-filled hip-hop track "Wolfbane" unexpectedly ends with a sample about a bomb powerful enough to destroy New York City, while "Doughnuts Forever" opens with a snippet about "missiles proceeding downrange." There's also the chilling "Ununited States," characterized by stark piano and funereal trumpet. Much less sobering is the bouncy "Pillow Flight @ Shag Mountain," which ends with a War of the Worlds-esque news report urging listeners to "disregard the gigantic throbbing love orb currently hovering above the planet." No Sounds ends up seeming a bit scattered, even by the Orb's standards, but it's still plenty enjoyable, and enough to distract you from the nightmarish absurdity of current events. ~ Paul Simpson
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