The Orb (Finally) Send Cydonia To Stores

The Orb's first new music since 1997 will finally see the light of day

on February 27 when Cydonia,, the electronic-music execs' long-delayed fifth studio album, is released in the U.S.

"I suppose it's a relief, or a release," bemoaned the group's fearless

leader, Dr. Alex Paterson, from his London home (and through myriad

yawns). "I am very happy that it's gonna come out. I just wish it could have taken a little bit less time."

Paterson said the album, which was completed in late 1998, was caught up in record-label limbo stemming from 1999's Universal/Polygram merger. The outfit's most recent output, including 1998's best-of compilation U.F. Off, was issued by Island; in the U.S., Cydonia will

be released by MCA Records.

The LP will be preceded by "Once More," a single which has already been bootlegged and remixed by a number of artists, including John Digweed (as Bedrock), who included it on Sasha & Digweed's hit double-CD mix Communicate last year. The track features ethereal vocals by

Japanese singer Aki, who also sings on an album track called

"Centuries." Cydonia, the Orb's first studio album since 1997's Orblivion, is titled after a region of Mars that has been purported to be the site of an ancient Martian city. (The recent action film "Mission to Mars" was set in Cydonia.)

"Rather than make it some kind of 4/4, out-there techno music, which is pretty much what we've done in a lot of respects, it's very much in the same experimental side as [1995's] Orbus Terrarum," Paterson said of the new LP. "But it's got sort-of songs, rather than not. Instead of 15-minute epics, it's like four-minute tracks."

Some typically expansive Orb tracks did make the final cut, however,

including the nine-minute "Mile Long Lump of Lard," which Paterson

described as "industrial techno with a mad back groove."

Cydonia also marks the first Orb record since the departure of

engineer and live collaborator Andy Hughes, who first appeared on

Live '93 and contributed to six tracks on the new record. Paterson did not seem terribly fazed by Hughes' absence.

"His engineering is pretty funky, but I think we can get on," he said.

"Once you miss one engineer, another one comes along very quickly. It's a bit like a bus. Or they all come along at the same time, and you never see one for ages."

In addition to the new album, Paterson is launching a record label, Bad Orb. Beginning in March, the Web site www.badorb.com will post an audio sample of a new track, selected by Paterson, which will be available for purchase as as a 12-inch for exactly one month before it is deleted from the site.

The first song offered by Bad Orb will be by the Berlin electronic duo

Sun Electric, followed by collaborations between Paterson and longtime

mates Guy Pratt and former Killing Joke member Fil, who worked on "Mile Long Lump of Lard" as well as "Spanish Castles in Space" off the group's 1991 debut, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld.

On Thursday, Paterson will host the first installment of

Internet radio show "Thursday Teatime" on the Groovetech Web site

(www.groovetech.com), which recently opened a London studio. The Doctor will present a combination DJ set/live performance (with assistance from Orb engineer and bassist Simon Philips) on the three-hour program, which airs every other week at 4 p.m. (GMT).

Paterson said Cydonia would have been released last October — before the Orb had secured a U.S. label — if not for the September birth of his first daughter, Mia Arizona, so named after the skies of the American Southwest. Apparently Mia is already a big music fan. "She just loves reggae," Paterson said. "She loves the basslines."

How shocking.