If you're an Orb fan who's been with the group since one of their first two albums, you've undoubtedly experienced a few bumps along the way until now. Although they've maintained a fairly smooth course, there have definitely been a couple bumps in the course of their career, and although most fans still wouldn't consider them having 'sold-out' or anything like that, there are definitely moments where as a listener, you've felt let down a bit.
The reason I mention all this is simply for the reason that I think there are going to be a lot of Orb fans who are let down immediately upon playing Cydonia. The release begins with one of those tracks that I personally never thought that the group would write. Although they've done some fairly mainstream numbers that incorporated samples and sounds for an almost built-in following ("Toxygene" among others), I never thought they'd write what I considered to be a 'pop' song. I mean, this is the group who has written 40-minute tracks that cracked the UK top 40 and created an almost 20-minute dub-like track based around a sample from a kids story about slugs.
Alas, though, the group has done it. "Once More" is a track that runs just over 4 minutes long and features somewhat dramatic vocals by Aki Omori. There's a bit of a thick bassline, but it's completely calm underneath the cheesy synths and light vocals (and even a bit of piano). It's really no worse than something you'd heard from Olive or Dido, but the fact that it's on an Orb album is somewhat startling. Honestly, though, if you can make it through that first track without wondering just what in the hell has happened to the group, the disc does indeed get better, and even though there are vocals on more tracks to come, they don't sound quite as radio-friendly and calculated as the first track (althought the eighth track "Centuries," also with Omori on vocals, is close).
"Ghostdancing" again takes a vocal approach, but at least still feels a little more like an Orb track in the process with slightly less prominent vocals a tripped-out dubby type of feel. "A Mile Long Lump Of Lard" is one of the awesome tracks off the disc, setting things up with long, building intro before letting loose with a grinding pulse on top of an already thick low-end rumble. It will test your speakers, but have you bobbing your head right along.
The rest of the album is sort of hit-or-miss, but fortunately slightly more of the latter. "Hamlet Of Kings" is another super low-end rumbler with all kinds of swirling electronic goodness, while the group tries its hand (wihtout much success) at rumbling drum and bass with "Thursday's Keeper" and "Turn It Down" is a fairly by-the-numbers dance-oriented track. Washing away some of the missteps is the freaking awesome album closer of "Terminus." With Robert Fripp adding some very nice guitar textures, the epic track is probably the best one on the entire release. Who knows where The Orb will go from here? They've been around for about a decade now and have done quite a few interesting things (even if they haven't always been successful). Hopefully, they find some new inspiration somewhere, though, as Cydonia is probably the least interesting of their releases.