Wednesday 23 September 2020

Side 1, Track 1 Pt4

 It may be hard for younger people to believe just how out there Little Fluffy Clouds was when it was released in 1990 as a 12" as the mix of vocal samples, dance beats loops of modern classical music is common place these days but back then it was definitely a "what the fuck" moment when you first heard it.  

The choice of samples was absolute genius, especially the use of a part of an interview with Ricki Lee Jones reminiscing about her childhood and especially the sky and "little fluffy clouds". Jones sounds, if we are being honest, stoned out of her napper and is the reason that Alex Paterson and Thrash used it in the first place. The artist wasn't best pleased from what we have learned and Big Life had to fork out cash to head off  threat of litigation. But this is not the only expertly placed sample, the John Waite from BBC Radio 4's You And Yours which blends into the harmonica from Once Upon A Time In America which introduces the track certainly grabs your attention from the off. The Pat Metheny recording of Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint which weaves its way through the track also  resulted in a lawyer's letter from the composer a few years later which resulted in him receiving 20% of the royalties and the Orb remixing one of his tracks.

When the single was released in 1990, although a big tune in the clubs failed to set the heather on fire and only reached #88 in the UK charts, so probably the first time those not initiated into dance culture at the time probably heard it as the opening track of the band's debut album, The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld which was unleashed on an unsuspecting world the following April and through word of mouth and continued acclaim climbed the charts to #29 and became a firm "after hours" favourite with clubbers and pubbers alike. 

Although the album version is a whole 4 minutes shorter than the Dance mk 2 which graced the A side of the 12" single, it is a perfect introduction to the travels that one will take through the 4 sides of the debut album, a long player that has remained a regular guest on my turntable ever since. Sometimes I get a jolt when I haven't played the album for a while when I hear Little Fluffy Clouds as due to it being a fan favourite it is always either the second last or last track aired when played live. 

The Orb - Little Fluffy Clouds (album version)


Tom W said...

I first heard this on Annie Nightingale's show and it blew my mind, and as happened back in those information-scarce days she didn't say what it was called or who it was by and I was left bereft. Then, perhaps a fortnight later, I passed my older brother's room, which was usually blaring Led Zep or Hawkwind or some shite – and heard it. Burst in, demanded to know who it was to his startled face, but it had only been put on the end of a tape, after an album he wanted, by a mate. We tracked the information down and he bought me the 12". Still got it, somewhere.

It's still a track that sends chills through me with its remembered futurity, even though it's old and venerable now. I never think of it as a track on an album; it stands alone, a monolith. Didn't know where half the samples came from so thanks for mentioning that.

Swiss Adam said...

Yep, brilliant record, one of those that perfectly encapsulates the period.

Echorich said...

WTF is just the best way to describe hearing Little Fluffy Clouds for the first time!
My brain was still recovering from A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain The Rules From The Center of the Ultraworld. I wasn't prepared, but I was absolutely prepared, for what followed.
When I got the 12" in my hands, I sat earestly watching the turntable spin as I experienced the song as one of my posessions. Parts of it can still enter into my mind out of the blue from time to time. The mix, the samples, everything is so perfectly put together that I couldn't care less where they come from, they belong right where they are.

acidted said...

What a fabulous reminder of a fabulous track.