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The Altogether

Release Date: 09.04.01
Record label: london/sire
Genre(s): Rock


The New Old Style
by: bill aicher

In a world steadily becoming saturated with a plethora of electronic artists, it sometimes becomes difficult to tell the good from the bad. Still, it is in times like this that certain acts continue to shine. Such is the case with Orbital, who throughout the 90s were considered one of the premier names in electronic music. And now, in their first album of the new millenium, Orbital prove once again why they rightfully deserve their place among electronic music's elite.

Orbital has long been known as one of the more musically technical groups in their scene, and for this reason casual listeners sometimes were slow to adopt to their style. With The Altogether, this may possibly change.

On previous works , most notably 1999's Middle of Nowhere, the Hartnoll brothers created a melodic form of electronic music which was more suited to a listener than a pulsing club. Songs flowed from one to another, making the listening experience the album rather than the each song. However, on The Altogether songs have been created which stand alone from each other much more than before - making the new album the group's most commercial to date.

Also, in a move contrary to previous work, Orbital has implemented the use of samples and vocals on the new tracks. Opening the album is "Tension," featuring a sample of an 80s rework of the song "Surfin' Bird" while "Tootled" takes Tool's "Sober" (with whom the group shared the bill in 1997's Lollapalooza tour). "Funny Break (One Is Enough)", already a hit in the UK, features vocals by Naomi Bedford - creating a sound vaguely reminiscient of the group's signature 1992 track, "Halcyon and On and On."

The most notable track on the disc is "Illuminate" featuring David Gray on vocals. For the first time in their history, Orbital have decided to create a "conventional" song - structured and radio-friendly. Still, it follows the basic style Orbital has pioneered and subsequently mastered.

However, the true hidden gem of the album is in the U.S. Limited Edition pressing - the second disc of remixes and B-Sides. It's on these tracks that Orbital truly prove their skills, as each one is better than most electronic music being pumped out to pop clubs today. Remixes of "Style" and "Nothing Left" from Middle of Nowhwere prevail, and a "Weekend Ravers Mix" of "Funny Break" is included as well. Be sure to check out "An Fhomhair" and "Old Style" (also previously included in URB Magazine's compilation Urbal Beats 3).

In the past decade Orbital have proven to deserve their place in the halls of electronic music history. 2001 marks a new step forward for the group, and they are on their way to getting it "just right." Still, they you can tell they still haven't hit their mark. Here's to hoping each step along the way is as good as this one. 13-Sep-2001 8:48 PM