9. The Orb – Assassin

Another brilliant transition takes us from Anita’s dying echoes (“Don’t be afraid, it’s just the magic friend, friend, friend, friend…“) into a track that could be its polar opposite.

‘Assassin’ is claustrophobic and sparse, but the goldfish bubbles and gentle woozy shimmers make this warm and comforting, especially compared to the bleak harshness of a lot of minimal techno. It’s the like difference between Fruit Pastilles and Fruit Gums – both are sweet, satisfying and of a similar shape/size, but the former is soft and relaxing to chew, whilst the latter requires considerable exertion of the jaw. Make of that metaphor what you will.

This track is of course an instrumental, one of the first I’d come across in the pop sphere. I had no knowledge of what The Orb looked like; there wasn’t even a vocal sample onto which to hook a ‘story’. Therefore my brain automatically supplied the accompanying mental pictures directly from my closest frame of reference at the time: Terry Pratchett’s Pyramids (in which the protagonist is a newly-qualified assassin). Josh Kirby’s cover illustrations were always fairly gruesome, and as such were incredibly appealing to a eleven-year-old tomboy who only a couple of years earlier had removed the heads of both her Barbies and sacrificed them to the Grand High My Little Pony goddess.

So my internal music video went something a little like this: a dashing young man, draped in uber-gothic black, pads stealthily along underwater (gloop, gloop). Suddenly he stops to look round (gloop!), before padding along a bit faster (gloopgloopgloop). Around 2 minutes in, the clattering spanner-down-a-drainpipe noise means our brave assassin is now being chased by the awful 3D-animated rotating spiky diamonds from the Lensman Manga cartoon (katak-ar-ak!). Finally he falls down a *really* deep hole (wheeeeeeeeeeeeeoooooooorrrp).

Amazingly, the actual video features none of these elements, preferring an abstract animation of some flying eagles, clouds and stone circles. I dearly love The Orb, but I’m certain that this affection is entirely due to their presence on this compilation. For example, despite being cooler (way less hippy nonsense) and simply more *banging*, Orbital are nowhere to be found on Rave ’92 (perhaps ‘Halcyon’ was released a few months too early for inclusion?) – and as a result my opinion of them has unfairly suffered over the years. For me at least, The Orb are like a big ambient duvet.

Watch the video to ‘Assassin’ on Youtube.