100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #100 The Orb – Little Fluffy Clouds

First Released : 1990

Sampling – the then largely outlaw process of taking snippets of somebody else’s music and using it in yours – had first emerged in hip-hop during the 1980’s, where ambitious producers extended the concept of live mixing by lifting snatches of old soul and funk tracks. The practice crossed into the UK mainstream with M/A/R/R/S Pump Up The Volume, but the line between the sample and the song began to dissolve quickly after that.

Formed by ex Killing Joke roadie Alex Paterson along with Jimmy Cauty (Who would leave to hatch the KLF), The Orb made tunes for exhausted, blissful post-clubbers to de-rave with. The protean movement it lay in had roots in the hippy-centric sound track of seventies Ibiza; Paterson took these playlists – featuring the likes of Brian Eno, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield – and in 1989 parlayed them into a DJ slot called The White Room at Land of Oz, Paul Oakenfold’s acid house night at the Heaven nightclub in London’s Charing Cross.

Cauty was replaced with Martin Glover and the pair set to work on melding Balearic vibes with laid-back techno for the second summer of love generation. Little Fluffy Clouds was both blissful and sample heavy, framed by a long duologue featuring American singer Rickie Lee Jones talking about her desert childhood spent in Arizona.

Amongst the gentle, dawn-breaking keyboard loops was also ground breaking composer Steve Reich, from whom the duo had plundered an airy guitar riff by Pat Metheny that had featured on his Electric Counterpoint release. In the aftermath Jones’ lawyers filed suit and a settlement of $5,000 was allegedly paid: Reich was astute enough to understand the publicity the track would bring him was worth a hundred times that. Jones would have the last word though, referring to The Orb when asked in 2019 interview with Aquarium Drunkard as simply “Those fuckers”.

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