Release Date: 08.20.02
Record label: London / Warner Bros.
by: bill aicher
I remember the first time I heard an Orbital track. It was during the opening credits of 1995's Hackers movie. From the start of "Halcyon's" building electronic symphony I knew I was in for something unbelievably special. No, it wasn't Hackers (although the movie does remain a guilty pleasure), but rather I was introduced to the wonderful world of electronic music... by none other than one of the prime innovators of the genre.
Sure, I was a late bloomer when it came to accepting electronic music. Orbital had been making music since 1989 and it was only now, six years later, that my ears caught on to the simply amazing pieces they were producing.
I call them pieces because Orbital have always built musical compositions rather than simplisitic electronic dance songs. Taking a look back at the "work" Orbital has done in its thirteen years it's easy to see this. They've always been more akin to classical composers to popstars - in my book anyway.
It's this unfaltering level of expertise in song production that has led to Orbital being one of the select few names in electronic music that can cause even the most boorish electronic fan to drool. It's also the main reason why Work, although an entirely necessary album in terms of historical standards, is ultimately unnecessary.
From the opening notes of their virgin floorburner, "Chime" to the closing chimes of "Belfast," Work appears to be an extremely successful "greatest hits" compilation - at least to any non-fan. But here's the problem: only Orbital fans are really going to be interested in this compilation. And then there's the big question: why would an Orbital fan really want this album when they more than likely have already invested their money in the albums these tracks have been culled from?
An even more preposterous notion is the fact that the tracks on Work are, for the most part, the shorter single versions. Instead of the uplifting build of "Halcyon" you're dropped right into the climax. Instead of the raging flashback electro-core of "Satan" we get "Satan Spawn" - that's right, the horrendous version with Kirk Hammett of Metallica from the Spawn soundtrack.
What Work ultimately ends up as is a cheap version of Moby's Songs compliation (if that's really possible), with trimmed down crappier versions taking the place of their supremely superior counterparts. For a timeline of a band like Orbital Work really should have been a double-disc set. At least it would have really gotten the point across. Orbital is an outstanding musical group; there's no reason their history should be told in such an easy-to-consume singles package.
Still, for anyone new to the genre or for those really big Orbital fans who can't live without the new track "Frenetic" (which is only available on Work, amazing as that is) it may be a worthy purchase.
In this reviewer's opinion, however, Work is simply Orbital for those cheap bastards not ready to commit. I only pray that after Work they invest in the "real" versions of the songs. 26-Aug-2002 8:44 PM