The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld

The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld is a seminal 1991 ambient house concept album by the electronic music collective The Orb. The album's framework is of a two-hour psychedelic trip though music genres and studio electronics, pushing the threshold of live stage performance. The double album is a continuous progressive composition consisting of several tracks advancing the travel concept and composed of vocal samples and sound effects interspersed with original music.

There are three versions, a 109:41 minute UK release, a 70:41 minute U.S. release and a 182:05 minute UK Deluxe Edition reissue that was released in mid 2006.

Track listing


Disc one

  1. "Little Fluffy Clouds" (A. Paterson/M. Glover) – 4:27
  2. "Earth (Gaia)" (A. Paterson/K. Weston) – 9:48
  3. "Supernova at the End of the Universe" (A. Paterson/S. Hillage/M. Giraudy) – 11:56
  4. "Back Side of the Moon" (A. Paterson/S. Hillage/M. Giraudy) – 14:15
  5. "Spanish Castles in Space" (A. Paterson/J. le Mesurier/G. Pratt) – 15:05

Disc two

  1. "Perpetual Dawn" (A. Paterson/E. Maiden) – 9:31
  2. "Into the Fourth Dimension" (A. Paterson/A. Falconer/P. Ferguson) – 9:16
  3. "Outlands" (A. Paterson/T. Fehlmann) – 8:23
  4. "Star 6 & 7 8 9" (A. Paterson/T. Green/H. Vickers) – 8:10
  5. "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld (Live Mix Mk 10)"(A. Paterson/J. Cauty/M. Riperton/R. Rudolph/S Darlow/S. Lipton/B. Woolley/T. Horn) – 18:49

The lining notes indicate tracks numbering: "earth orbit one", "earth orbit two", "earth orbit three", etc.


  1. "Little Fluffy Clouds" – 4:27
  2. "Earth (Gaia)" – 9:49
  3. "Supernova at the End of the Universe" – 11:55
  4. "Perpetual Dawn (Solar Youth Mix)" (A. Paterson/E. Maiden/J. Nelson/S. Phillips/M. Glover) – 3:48
  5. "Into the Fourth Dimension" – 9:14
  6. "Outlands" – 8:20
  7. "Star 6 & 7 8 9" – 4:22
  8. "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld (Live Mix Mk 10)" – 18:47

UK: 2006 Deluxe Edition reissue

Disc one

  1. "Little Fluffy Clouds" – 4:27
  2. "Earth (Gaia)" – 9:48
  3. "Supernova at the End of the Universe" – 11:56
  4. "Back Side of the Moon" – 14:15
  5. "Spanish Castles in Space" – 15:05

Disc two

  1. "Perpetual Dawn" – 9:31
  2. "Into the Fourth Dimension" – 9:16
  3. "Outlands" – 8:23
  4. "Star 6 & 7 8 9" – 8:10
  5. "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld (Live Mix Mk 10)" – 18:49

Disc three

  1. "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld [Peel Session]" – 20:14
  2. "Perpetual Dawn [Ultrabass II]" – 7:12
  3. "Little Fluffy Clouds [Cumulo Nimbus Mix]" – 6:39
  4. "Back Side of the Moon [Under Water Deep Space Mix]" – 8:42
  5. "Outlands [Fountains of Elisha Mix]" – 8:39
  6. "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld (Aubrey Mix Mk 11)" – 7:13
  7. "Spanish Castles in Space [Extended Youth Mix]" – 13:39
  8. Track 3 mixed by Pal Joey
  9. Track 4 mixed by Steve Hillage
  10. Track 5 mixed by Ready Made
  11. Track 6 mixed by Jimmy Cauty & Dr Alex Patterson
  12. Track 7 mixed by Youth


The Orb have always primarily been composed of one individual, Alex Paterson, along with numerous and varied assistants throughout the group's recording career. Paterson's late 80's and early 90's chillout dj sets in Paul Oakenfold's "Land of Oz" night in the club Heaven are legendary. and included collaborations with another ambient house pioneer Jimmy Cauty. Paterson says:
"We'd build melodies up by overdubbing and mixing multiple tracks and then take an eight track (or was it a twelve track?) into Heaven, just linking it up to three decks ([turntables]), loads of CD players, loads of cassettes... we used to keep it very, very quiet. We never used to play any drums in there. It'd be, just like, you know, BBC sound effects, really... four or five hours playing really early dub reggae... For All Mankind [a documentary of NASA's Apollo missions, with a soundtrack by Brian Eno]. We had white screens so we could put up visuals as well. We had home movies of ducks in the park. We'd go for everything. It was all layering on top of each other.

Following success in the singles market (including the 1988 "Tripping on Sunshine", 1989 "Kiss EP" and 1989 "Huge, evergrowing brain that rules from the center of the Universe"), Paterson and Cauty started work on their first album. Cauty left in 1990 to pursue another band, The KLF, with Bill Drummond,. Paterson moved on to his next collaboration "Little Fluffy Clouds" in Autumn 1990 with Killing Joke's Youth. The track was recorded by an 18 year old studio Engineer and future Orb collaborator Kris "Thrash" Weston.

Finally in April 1991, the Orb released their first album The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld onto an audience prepared by their groundbreaking singles and several John Peel radio sessions. The album was received in the UK and Europe with critical acclaim. The album rose to position #29 in the UK Album charts. By mid-91, the Orb had signed a deal to release the album in the U.S. but were forced to edit the double-disc 109:41 minute UK release down to a one disc 70:41 minutes. The full double-disc version was later released in the U.S. by Island. As of April 25 2006, only the original 70:41 minute US release is available for purchase in Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Innovation and relevance

1991 was a pivotal year for Electronic music. The KLF released The White Room, Massive Attack released Blue Lines, My Bloody Valentine released Loveless, Primal Scream released Screamadelica. and The Orb released Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. Cauty and Drummond's KLF, especially their releases The White Room and Chill Out directly relate to the Orb's Ultraworld, not only in its historical context but also musically. Paterson not only worked in Eno's EG Records but also inherited some of Eno's playful tones and ambient textures.

Ultraworld prepared the groundwork for many Glitch, Minimal Techno, and Ambient Techno artists; but additionally the commercial success of this album, the live tour which followed and the U.F.Orb successor announced the arrival of electronic music into the mainstream. The overt use of sampling flowered in this brief period before being legislated out of existence. Paterson encountered two lawsuits in relation to sampling on Ultraworld; Rickie Lee Jones sued for the use of her vocal in "Little Fluffy Clouds", and Minnie Riperton's estate for her vocal in "A Huge Evergrowing..." Paterson's use of Public Domain works (BBC and NASA recordings) also set the ground for the reaction and response of the musical community to the intrusive heavy-handed RIAA approach.

Themes and structure

Each track on Ultraworld stands distinct from its peers; there is little interrelation between them. The journey from Fluffy Clouds to Ultraworld, occurs in stages but only the title of the track reveals the map. The self-referentialness and overt absurdity of the albums space context are presented as a lampoon of prog rock conceits, the jibe extended to the embrace of the double album. Paterson veers from sample to sample, each one reinforcing the concept of travel, motorcycles, space ships, planes, each stitched and modified to make a new narrative, the definition of travel now presented as internalised, perhaps in a narcotic context.

The rejection and absence of the standard percussive framework (a 4/4 beat) allows Paterson to experiment with some very ambitious multitracked looping; samples are looped and cut to make a shifting drone anchor. Paterson often plays with samples over this; some Russian Cosmonauts talk us through one part of Paterson's journey, Gregorian Chant through another. The use of spoken word samples, Apollo mission dialogue, Cosmonaut musings, and other incongruous sources are contrasted with (often loping, syncopated) ambient house and dub rhythms.

The 'Ultraworld' reference is from an episode of the Blake's 7 TV show; the song title "A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld" is the same one given to a sound effect from that show, as released earlier on a BBC sound effects album. Pink Floyd's Animals and Dark Side of the Moon are also namechecked either as objects of ridicule, in the context of double-albums and Battersea Power Station (which is a frequent theme in Orb artwork), spaceships, or more loosely through overwrought, ornate track titles, and drug references.

The double album conceit backfired in the US market. American record labels were not prepared to have rockist principles mocked by a musician producing what was still a very esoteric genre in America (or just as likely, considered it difficult to sell a more expensive double-CD by an 'unknown' artist), and forced Paterson to compromise the integrity of the album, by cutting the album from two disks to a single one, and in cutting several tracks down to more traditional 3 or 4 minute length.


One definition of "chilling" presupposes transcending from a drug-induced high; in this context the frenetic pace of MDMA high. The UK in 1991 was not long after the Summer of Love, the Madchester and Acid House movements, and with them the social acceptability of Ecstasy use, especially when attending Raves and clubs.

Paterson's music found favour with the Downtempo rooms in clubs designed to relax party-goers after dancing to the more up-tempo rave and techno beats. Ultraworld provided an extended listening period of just under 2 hours. Like Eno's Discreet Music and early ambient works, Ultraworld was used to soothe and calm amphetamine jitters and racing pulses.

Album covers

The two covers are primarily distinguished by the outing of the Floydian Battersea Power Station on the US cover. The images are attributed as follows in the lining:

Critical reception

  • Melody Maker (12/91) - Ranked #22 in Melody Maker's list of the top 30 albums of 1991 - "...some of the most unique sounds of the year..."
  • NME (10/2/93, p.29) - Ranked #45 in the NME Writer's list of the `Greatest Albums Of All Time.'
  • Alternative Press (7/95, p.116) - "...probably [the Orb's] most influential [release]. A combination of light rhythms, inter-stellar spaces, and random knob-turning, ADVENTURES BEYOND THE ULTRAWORLD soared into our minds with an ambient shriek unheard since Eno first experimented with the concept..."
  • Q (11/96, p.155) - 3 Stars (out of 5) - "...[this] 1991 debut album...has all the trademark devices of The Orb in place: helicopter noises, vocal samples, slabs of dub, sudden washes of apparently random noise, absurd titles...and very long tracks..."
  • Spin (9/99, p.160) - Ranked #82 in Spin Magazine's "90 Greatest Albums of the '90s.
  • Muzik (2/02) - Ranked #7 in Muzik Magazines Top 50 Dance Albums if All time
  • Pitchfork (2003) - Ranked #100 in Pitchforks Top 100 records of the 1990s "... supremely hypnotizing ... simultaneously liquid enough to put you to sleep and frighteningly exotic enough to hype your nerves up
  • Slant Magazine (2003) - Ranked #4 in Slants The 25 Greatest Electronic Albums of the 20th Century

Tracks details

Instrumentation and samples


Musicians and engineers



Release history

Year Type Label Catalog
2006 CD Island/Universal 948 002-2
1994 CD Big Life/Island Red 535005
1994 CS Big Life/Island Red 535005
1994 CD Big Life BRDCD5
1991 CD Big Life 314-511034-2
1991 CS Big Life 314-511034-4
1991 CD Big Life 511034
1991 CS Big Life 511034

Recording details

  • the coach house, London.
  • do not erase, London
  • marcus studios, London.
  • soho, London.
  • mit cafe.
  • Berwick Street Studio, London.
  • Brixton, southside.
  • outer space, inner space
  • Trancecentral, London. Cautys/KLF studio


External links

Adrien Denning review

Eamon McCucker review

Howard Shih interview (1997)



  • Weisbard, Eric; Craig Marks (1995). Spin Alternative Record Guide. Vintage Books.

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