Album Review – Orbital


Orbital -‘Orbital 20′ (Rhino)

This is one of the most glorious things to grace my ears this year. The ’20’ in the title could refer the number of years since they formed, the number of tracks on the compilation across two wonderful CDs or even the accumulated marks for each disc out of ten.

Because -make no mistake – this compilation of the work of the Brothers Hartnoll, Phil and Paul, is just fantastic. Even if you weren’t a dance music fan, not to be moved and impressed by these tracks would be to give up on life. It opens with ‘Chime’ their glorious manifesto, and continues with ‘Belfast’ the younger, further-reaching cousin of the Beloved’s ‘The Sun Rising.’ Then it’s onto ‘Satan’ the delightfully bonkers, thrilling floor-filler that samples the Butthole Surfers. And that’s just the first three tracks.

The Hartnoll Brothers proved themselves masters of much of what has come under the heading of dance and elctronica over the past two deacdes. Echoes of house, trance, ambient, techno and chill. Their contemporaries have, over time, included The Orb, Aphex Twin, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers, and Leftfield. Like these acts, they were born out of rave culture, but progressed into the charts and tore up the mainstream, proving themselves as chart stars with Top Of The Pops appearances, gracing the Peel Festive Fifty and the pages of indie bible NME. Added to that list should almost certainly be Massive Attack, DJ Shadow, UNKLE, Boards of Canada, the Prodigy and yes, Fatboy Slim and Moby. Hopefully all of them will be remembered when the inevitable nineties revival kicks into gear, that the music of the time was not just about grunge and Britpop. I made that mistake then, I’m sure as hell not doing it again.

I really connected with Orbital when ‘The Box’ came out, and it lead to me going back and investigating their earlier stuff. Now the four minute version here is great – but one of the few disappointments of this album is that it doesn’t include the full 28 minute version. It does contain two different versions of ‘Lush,’ a storming ten minute track. It doesn’t include their re-make of ‘The Saint’ theme, either, but I think I can live with that and so can you. Their live shows became legendary – so much so that when the band announced they were retiring in 2004, it seemed that they were constantly doing one more show. Now they have returned and this is not an excercise in nostalgia; rather, it’s an opportunity for everyone to remind themselves just how great they are.

Sod the bloody Gallagher brothers, this album proves that the most important act of brothers of British music over the last two decades is not Noel and Liam, but Phil and Paul.


Orbital -‘Style.’ mp3

Orbital -‘The Box.’ mp3

Orbital -‘Chime’ (Top Of the Pops 1990)

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