Electronic dance music association fronted by Alex Paterson and supplemented by a rotating cast of characters. The Orb began as a collaboration between Paterson and Jimmy Cauty in 1988. The two, working mainly in the ambient and progressive house genres, issued singles and EPs and received some notice around the London club scene, with Paterson achieving residence status in the "chill rooms" of several London clubs.
Meanwhile, beginning in 1989, Cauty achieved celebrity status for his role in The KLF. When The Orb was offered a recording contract by Big Life records in 1990, Cauty wanted their first album instead to be released on KLF Communications. Paterson feared that this would result in The Orb being viewed as a side project of The KLF, so at that point he and Cauty went their separate ways, with Paterson retaining the name The Orb. (Cauty took some material he had that he and Paterson had recorded, re-did Paterson's contributions, and released the material under the name "Space".) Paterson collaborated with fellow producer Kris Weston and guitarist Steve Hillage to produce The Orb's first album, The Orb's Adventures Beyond the Underworld.
Over time and many record releases, The Orb pursued the same basic direction, although with various side trips (such as the atonal Pomme Fritz, or the hip-hop bits on Bicycles & Tricycles). The material at times borrowed heavily from 1970s electronic pioneers such as Brian Eno and Kraftwerk; live performances featured lighting effects often used by Pink Floyd, and The Orb was at times accused of having reinvented progressive rock. However, Paterson, who had spent time in Jamaica as a young man, also will insert influences from reggae, ska and dub. Paterson's cohorts over the years have included fellow producers Thomas Fehlmann and Martin "Youth" Glover (in the 1980s, Paterson had roadied for Glover's band Killing Joke), guitarists Robert Fripp and David Gilmour, jazz vocalist Juliet Roberts, and comedian Simon Day, to name a few.
The Orb's music frequently revolves around science fiction and space exploration themes. However, Paterson tempers that with humorous, sometimes silly touches (e.g., the many whimsical song titles). The Orb, like The KLF and many other electronic dance music bands of its vintage, uses many samples of other artists' work, often without permission, and this has gotten them into legal trouble at times. As of 2015, The Orb is still active, having now released 12 studio albums and numerous EPs, singles and videos, plus remixes of other artists' works. The band's "Blue Room" holds the all-time record for the longest single ever to be listed on the Gallup UK Top 100 singles charts (it reached as high as #8), at 39 minutes and 57 seconds.