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Orbital
Albums

  • Orbital 2,
  • Snivilisation,
  • In Sides,
  • The Middle Of Nowhere








  • Adrian's Album Reviews |

    Orbital

    Orbital 2 8 ( 1992 )
    Time Becomes / Planet Of The Shapes / Lush 3-1 / Lush 3-2 / Impact / Remind / Walk Now / Monday / Halcyon + On + On / Input Out

    Orbital, famous for their live shows which include lasers and plenty of atmosphere unusual for a dance act. They made their name with 'Chime', hit the charts and had already become a leading techno/dance act by the time of this, their second album. Not that they always make things easy! This album opens for example with a sample from 'Star Trek Next Generation'. They take a single line spoken by 'Worf' and loop and repeat it, play tricks with it - for nearly two minutes. And that folks, is your opening song! Not only that, but 'Planet Of The Shapes' opens as if it's being played on a transistor radio in the house next door. After a minute or so the beats proper kick in and we're off! Orbital often have a way with a bass-line, their songs seem three dimensional. Other dance acts sometimes fail at this, including a bass grove but not using the bass to fill out the sound that's already there. Orbital bass-lines and rhythmic rather than melodic, but then, the melodies come elsewhere. 'Planet Of The Shapes' is pretty great all told, even going on for nine and a half minutes, if fails completely to be boring. 'Lush 3-1' is very percussive with melody lines and a bass-line filling out the sound and the song. It contains many 'twinkling' moments and sounds! and 'Lush 3-2' is just the second half of the same song and continues on in a percussive bent whilst introducing more standard style techno beats along the way. Less 'otherworldly' these two tracks than the mighty 'Planet Of The Shapes' although 'Lush 3-2' comes close when a wailing female voice appears. You know, mostly it works.

    'Impact', all ten minutes of it, is a fury from beginning to end. It builds up actually, adding layers of sound to another percussive techno bed until the whole things is positively swinging. 'Remind' opens with a strange sequence of sounds, a bass groove kicks in! That's just the introduction though - things change and move into more standard techno territory, although the piece is always, like many Orbital tracks, intelligently sequenced and put together. 'Walk Now' opens with a didgeridoo sound, always popular at festivals. A layering of beats and other sounds builds the track up to reach a peak, and then they hold that peak. Standard Orbital stuff really, although the Didgeridoo sound, which is repeated throughout at least marks this track apart a little from others on this particular album. 'Monday' is notable for it's thumping bass sound, and 'Halcyon + On + On' rather special indeed. Very mellow, very lovely female vocal sounds, nice and trance like, a precursor to that particular music style perhaps, although this still has 'regular' techno beats, Piano type sounds and much else besides. It's just got such a great sound. The closing 'Input Output' is more messing around with loops and sampled speech, contains no actual music but along with 'Time Becomes' works to bookend the album, I suppose. Both the opening and closing tracks are extremely irritating though! Well, they irritate me. Anyways, a fine album this, 'Halcyon + On + On' and 'Planet Of The Shapes' being my particular picks here.

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    Snivilisation ( 1994 )
    Forever / I Wish I Had Duck Feet / Sad But True / Crash And Carry / Science Friction / Philosophy By Numbers / Kein Trink Wasser / Quality Seconds / Are We Here? / Attached

    An intelligent progression for their album, Orbital surrounding the album with a loose technological paranoia type of concept. A concept album? Well, almost. This is actually one of the most 'human' sounding Techno albums I've ever heard, without being ambient or anything. You know, this is still techno, intelligent and rather great techno at that. 'Forever' just sounds great. It sounds more richly produced than anything from the first two records, 'Halcyon + On + On' included. A varied album this, too. 'I Wish I Had Duck Feet' opens with what sounds like bubbling oil, a playful little sequence of notes enters above this sound. The beats kick in sounding almost like steel drums played in a hall. A sample of speech comes in and fades in and out through the track, other voices emerge. It's actually disquieting, which may have been the point. You find yourself struggling to pick out the speech parts, the sound created by the beats percussive not changing, a faint melody line appearing underneath however amid other effects. It's a brave, fairly unique and startling track from beginning to end. It also flows very well into the third song here, 'Sad But True' which again varies the sound of the record, all percussive beats and wibbly wobbly electronic noises! 'Crash And Carry' includes a noise that sounds like someone waving a big sheet of metal around in the air before moving on to a wonderfully exciting and fast set of techno beats interspersed with noises that would have the lasers attached to the guys from Orbital's head guy going crazy during festival appearances. Yeah, it's damn fine! 'Science Friction' appears, and appears completely natural and utterly suited to its position in the running order. You can tell these guys haven't just thrown a bunch of tracks together but have also though long and hard how each song here relates to all of the other songs here. The ultimate effect of this is to create a highly consistent record.

    'Philosophy By Numbers' is wonderful, haunting, thought-provoking. Speech samples fade in and out, technology and philosophy. Hmmm, tasty! Another wonderfully structured track with the right additional layers of sound when and where this piece demands it. 'Kein Trink Wasser' is a less serious piece on the face of it, with silly/happy sounding sampled Piano parts coming in over the top of each other, moving fast. Something that sounds like a violin or viola and cello arrives underneath. This introduction builds up and up, then disappears and a regular Orbital track replaces it that is less enjoyable than other tracks here, dammit! Still, everything else is pretty great, so I can hardly complain badly. The intriguingly titled 'Quality Seconds' sounds like a thrash metal band wielding chainsaws and having a grand old time! Appropriately, this track lasts for less than two minutes! 'Are We Here' brings back the thought provoking philosophy in the way of samples and the music is 'Planet Of The Shapes' or 'Halycon + On + On' wonderful. The closing 'Attached' is a more mellow piece, hard to describe but just seems to wrap things up absolutely perfectly. A wonderful record this, one of the finest albums of it's style, whatever 'style' that really actually is!

    Agree/Disagree

    Readers Comments

    Rick Atbert erfinagerfin@hotmail.com
    agree with everything you've said about this album - but hell, I'd give this a 10 or at least 9.5, seeing as it's one of my top 5 albums of all time. If I were to rate 'em all, I'd say: Orbital 1: 6 Orbital 2: 7.5 Sniv: 10 InSides: 9.5 Middle of Nowhere: 8.5 Altogether: 7 Blue: 7.5

    Justin heasman_justin@hotmail.com
    I personally rate Snivilisation as their most average LP. Too many outside influences, the album rattles along without ever becoming sublime; this still disapppoints. btw, InSides is a classic, although the under-rated Middle Of Nowhere is probably even better.



    In Sides 6 ( 1996 )
    The Girl With The Sun In Her Head / Petrol / The Box / Dwr Budr / Adnan's / Out There Somewhere?

    Orbital go progressive techno! Well, almost. This release coincided with the groups peak of popularity and is held up by some fans as a peak for the group artistically as well. My problem with this album is entirely down to my own personal tastes, so feel to ignore them if you wish. 'The Box' was the lead single, and right away I disliked it. On the album, you get a two-part 'The Box' containing a semi-symphonic introduction that goes on and on for six minutes without doing very much at all. It's actually the kind of song 'introduction' Orbital had done before, but before - such an introduction might have been just a minute or two long. Once 'The Box' proper begins, the famous single version - it's perfectly fine I guess but it just irritates me. It's too knowing, calculated and cute for it's own good. As I said, feel free to ignore all of these comments, just personal taste. But then, this is a personal album reviews site! I'm not Pitchforkmedia, and nor do I desire to be! 'The Girl With The Sun In Her Head' is a good opening song though. It seems a logical continuation of the sound of 'Snivilisation' but as the title suggests, minus the techno philosophical paranoia and with a little more beach and sunshine! It's a pretty fine track. 'Petrol' is a piece of thumping techno, pretty impressive but just somehow less distinctive than previous Orbital material.

    'Dwr Budr' is enjoyably German sounding to open before it moves on to feature female vocals, some nice melody lines, but then, they'd done this sort of thing before on 'Halycon +On On' and done it better. 'Adnan's' makes good use of Orbital's waving a sheet of metal around in the air kind of sound! A good track this actually, nice and mellow in the end, pretty dreamy. The closing 'Out There Somewhere' is a thirteen minute long epic of sorts which means, including 'The Box' that four of the six tracks on this record top ten minutes in length. And, 'Out There Somewhere' is just.....unremarkable. Nothing new for Orbital, but I can certainly understand it's appeal. I'm listening with jaded ears. This wasn't my first Orbital album, I've reviewed these records in the order I bought them. 'In Sides' just seems to me to offer nothing new over previous Orbital albums, and doesn't do anything better either. Of course, a six song album full of lengthy pieces is why some people were now labelling the group 'progressive'. Well, they had the right idea in the first place I guess, but the actual execution is something album. The album lacks the smooth transitions, track to track that made 'Snivilisation' such an enjoyable listen from beginning to end. This album may just be something you dip into now and then.

    Agree/Disagree

    Readers Comments

    Jeroen van Alpen djarune@xs4all.nl
    I could not believe you!. In Sides is THE best album of Orbital. The album's only flaw is that it can be difficult to understand; casual music fans will be flustered by the strange sounds, and electronic fans may be disappointed by the constrained use of cool effects. However, persistence will reveal the depth and genius of this album! I think Out there somewhere is the best Orbitaltrack ever made, with Halcyon of course.

    Lee lennyfelps@yahoo.com
    You're right, I have to disagree with you. First off, the Hartnoll brothers were going through some serious depression when they made this album. The Girl With the Sun in Her Head was simply one of the best opening songs that Orbital has done. The pitch bend sound effect on the main melody is truly amazing. I admit, I do enjoy listening to this song when I'm feeling mellowed out by something. Petrol is one of the most unique-sounding songs that Orbital has made to date. The other songs also reflect their dour mood, and I think this is one of their more serious albums.

    John Packham johnpackham@hotmail.com
    Come on man, you must have had bicks fizz on headphones while this was playing in the background. Ive seen orbital play 9 times now (Hoping and waiting for the 10th) and the best tour they ever did (not that this makes the rest bad because they all were absolutely fantashtish) was the insides tour. Listening to that wide sound, top end, sub base, tweaks, glitches and all the rest of the knob twiddling that took to make that album was amazing. You gotta listen to it again man, get into it, its bangin,. I have to admit, i wasn't kean when i first heard it, but by god its brilliant. Peace

    Dave Wizard mr_toad_837@hotmail.com
    If ever a list of albums to be played on extremely long car journeys is compiled then Insides is No1. The HArtnolls in an interview were asked about there thinking behing the album and they said it was designed to be listened to in the car. What must their elavator music sond like?

    Darren Ward darren.ward@btinternet.com
    Adnan's is the best Orbital track I reckon they have ever made. Insides is my favourite Orbital album of all. Altogether sounded too messy for me. I like clean cut ambient/complicated melody like Insides. It's awesome, and get's so much spin time in my Hi-FI!!!!

    Arley Wolber wolber@email.unc.edu
    Damn man you is trippin' In Sides is far and away Orbital's best album - i think you need to go back and listen to it again

    steve s.l.conway@gmail.com
    Love your reviews in general, but have tio say I thought this was stunning piece of orchestra, hugely ahead of its time (still is) but sharing more in common with Holst that the others dance/ambient acts at the time. Also, you seem to only list treacks from Disc 1. Disc 2 is simply stunning. (Did I end up with a US version or something?).

    David Owens davidowens78@yahoo.com
    I completely disagree with you on this one! This album is a classic, perhaps their masterpiece! It's a swirling, dreamy kaleidoscope of sound that's perfect for a sleepy Sunday afternoon, or for an invigorating Saturday night. The textures are gorgeous, the melodies subtle, and the whole thing swirls around your head without ever letting go of your attention or keeping you gripped in an uncomfortable way. Alongside the Brown album (Orbital 2) this is their best work, in my opinion.

    Dylan Lloyd-Edwards kettleoffish
    I have to disagree! Whilst it's not my favourite Orbital (that's '2'/'Brown' album) it comes pretty close. I love the John Barryesque tracks (the opening track's title is even a play on Barrys' 'The Girl With The Sun in Her Hair'). Whereas the previous album played with modern classical ideas and referenced Philip Glass, Steve Reich and the like (particularly the Graham Crowden quoting, 'Einstein on The Beach' style, opener) I felt that it lacked something emotionally. 'In sides' remedies this in a BIG way! The opening and closing tracks are amongst the best and most affecting music they recorded.



    The Middle Of Nowhere ( 1999 )
    Way Out / Spare Parts Express / Know Where To Run / I Don't Know You People / Otono / Nothing Left 1 / Nothing Left 2 / Style

    Orbital may no longer have been exactly cutting edge by the time 1999 rolled around, but they didn't care much about that. They were still a hugely popular live draw and still had a few tricks up their sleeves. 'Way Out' which opens this record really does little than 'Orbital 2' didn't already do, but here, unlike 'In Sides' - the execution is great! It sounds full, well produced and flows naturally. This is back to Orbital intelligently sequencing the parts of a song so that is has a natural beginning middle and end, and makes sense. I also enjoy the spooky Sci-Fi noises here! 'Spare Parts Express' continues to be nothing exactly new for Orbital but again, it sounds pretty good, back to the sound of 'Snivilisation' almost. 'Know Where To Run' opens with the sound of a transistor radio attempting to fly and someone hoovering their front room three houses away! Well, that's what it sounds like! Once the song proper has begun, the beats lack any kind of invention, very standard stuff although the extra noises and effects mixed in do make this a fairly interesting song. 'I Don't Know You People' ends the first half of the album ( isn't it silly I still think in terms of side one and side two? this is a CD! ) and includes samples, a very odd indeed sounding rhythm. A fine track that doesn't sound exactly like anything they'd done before.

    'Otono' kicks off 'side two' (?) and starts off with one of those lovely Orbital introductions that builds up to lead naturally into the main part of the song. Some very strange noises in this one, that may be vocals, but it's hard to tell. Sounds like someone moaning in the background. Very noticeable vocals come in later, just brief snippets but a combination of things here mark this out as an interesting song. 'Nothing Left' is a fifteen minute long, two part song that's more Orbital by numbers than anything else and besides some beautiful vocals, fairly unremarkable - if still pretty nice to listen to. 'Style' closes the album and opens with some really nice, weird harmonium type noises, little 'farting' style sounds add to this, like someone making a 'fake fart' with their armpit. The strangely lo-fi sounding electronics continue rather alluringly. Certainly not a track built for the dancing masses but it works very well in an album context. It provides some much needed variety and like 'I Don't Know You People' sounds a little different to almost any other Orbital material.

    Agree/Disagree

    Readers Comments

    pseudonym@breakspace.net
    Whole heartedly disagree. In Sides is genius. Followed by more genius in Middle Of Nowhere. Pity they had to go and fall foul to banality on The Altogether.



    this page last updated 23/08/09


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