Dec 07


FT8 comments • 1,218 views

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.


  1. 1
    stevem on 11 Dec 2007 #

    Great track, unearthly but groovy. I wish The Orb had made more bangers and that this had been on UFOrb. They clearly had a knack for infectious dub-house ala Renegade Soundwave and Leftfield but put more ideas into it than them – or at least made it proggier (if that’s not the same thing).

  2. 2
    Tom on 11 Dec 2007 #

    This was the single that had just been released when we went to the Orb / PRML SCRM benefit event in Sheffield for some striking miners. To be honest neither band was at the height of their powers but we didn’t care because we were stoned 19-year olds ^H^H^H^H^H^H^H it was about the workers right. They played an interminably long version of Assassin (interminably long on the intro not the relatively banging bit) which put me off what is actually a pretty good track.

  3. 3
    Marcello Carlin on 11 Dec 2007 #

    It is definitely better than Marillion’s 1984 Top 30 hit “Assassing.”

  4. 4
    RobM on 11 Dec 2007 #

    Wasn’t this only an instrumental because Bobby G was supposed to add a vocal but never got around to it? Or am I making that up? Never rated the song much on disc, but it made perfect sense when I saw the Orb live later that year.

  5. 5
    Chewshabadoo on 11 Dec 2007 #

    Even better was the Bandulu remix, which was definitely more of a banger.

  6. 6
    katstevens on 11 Dec 2007 #

    It’s interesting how I listen to this sort of gurgling plughole music ALL THE TIME these days, but don’t mentally associate it with The Orb at all.

  7. 7
    Tulkskessemug on 21 Oct 2008 #

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  8. 8
    Gareth Parker on 24 Jun 2021 #

    #3 The Marillion song is better than anything you could come up with. Great ambient track imo.

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