Release Date: Apr 3, 2012
Record label: ACP
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Techno, Club/Dance, Ambient Techno
Well here's something I never thought I'd ever write again: The new Orbital album is great. It wasn't so much that Blue and TheAltogether were total write offs, just so devoid of fresh ideas or brave enough to take on past pinnacles that they failed to land much of a blow. A decade, greatest hits tour and hiatus later, Wonky is better than either of those aforementioned LPs within two tracks.
Mainstream techno duo Orbital have gifted themselves a bunch of bad reviews by naming their new album – their first in eight years – after a short-lived, non-existent house subgenre from five years ago, which they don’t even practise. But people claiming that the brothers Hartnoll have grown out of touch miss the point that they were only vaguely in touch with everyone else to begin with. Instead, ‘Wonky’ has reconnected them with the lush spirit of their first and second albums, and despite (successful) attempts to do dubstep (‘Beelzedub’) and electro/grime on the title track, this is mainly a deep pool of blissful, sedentary festival listening.[i]John Doran[/i] .
There was no need for Orbital to release a new album. Eight years ago, The Blue Album sent Phil and Paul Hartnoll out on a moderate high note, a career-spanning compendium of their best ideas, if not always the best executed versions of those ideas. It was a perfectly acceptable cap to the decade-plus career of two reliable purveyors of strong-to-amazing dance music full-lengths.
OrbitalWonky[ACP; 2012]By Zak Padmore; June 20, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetOver a decade ago, The Altogether confused Orbital’s legions of fans and seemed to paint the duo out of the rave scene completely. Indeed, though 2004’s The Blue Album was an improvement of sorts, it did little to stave off the fears that the Hartnoll brothers were falling out of touch, rehashing old ideas without moving forward. At the time, most were content to consider it a half-hearted last hurrah, an enjoyable record reminiscent of old times perhaps lacking the assertiveness and vigour of before.
The noughties were not Orbital’s decade. By the time of their last pre-split album The Blue Album in 2004, the glory days of the rave scene which spawned the band were well over a decade ago. That record and its predecessor, 2001’s The Altogether, served to alienate the Hartnoll brothers from their core audience who had moved on, the zeitgeist in electronic music turning away from the massive raves and festival headline slots, to more intimate, insular and somewhat darker terrain.
For a while there, Orbital was done. DJing brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll admitted that their collective inspiration had run dry and that they weren’t interested in wasting anyone’s time if they just weren’t into the Orbital thing anymore. Some artists take sabbaticals, but the silence of Orbital felt like it was going to be permanent. After toiling through the underground of techno, ambient and rave for so many years while gradually surfacing to the main stages, it’s probably easy to believe the brothers Hartnoll when they said they had just run out of ideas.
Title aside, Orbital's first album in eight years doesn't induce the comeback cringe. It's that rare thing: a reunion album that's neither dated nor desperate. The 90s electronic titans use vintage analogue synths, subtly retro-fitting their sound in a way that, ironically, brings it bang up to date. Further mod cons include a sensational dubstep reading of live favourite "Satan" ("Beelzedub") and the deployment of Zola Jesus on the so-so "New France".
When Orbital‘s Hartnoll brothers announced their retirement in 2004 with the release of Blue Album, many probably felt it was time. By this point, Orbital had been releasing material that had abandoned ingenuity and instead found themselves spinning their wheels and recycling ideas and approaches, as evidenced by their 2001 release The Altogether. With 2004’s Blue Album, they aimed to deliver a back-to-basics electronic album, reminiscent of earlier, more classic Orbital releases (specifically the Green and Brown albums).
Review Summary: In forgetting how to age gracefully, Orbital run the risk of tarnishing their reputation even furtherIt’s trepidation that prefaces the exploration of Wonky, Orbital’s first album post self-imposed retirement, and their only body of work since 2004’s disastrous Blue Album. Hesitation, because while fellow seminal rave acts The Future Sound Of London and Underworld have managed to defy the odds and have aged relatively gracefully, Orbital’s descent into the bargain bins of the electronic music world is a fall well documented. Their forced hibernation, credited to “creative exhaustion”, does little to instill the kind of confidence one would expect upon their return; even assurances from the Hartnoll brothers that their return to the spotlight would only be necessitated if it was deemed necessary still fails to argue against the fact that Orbital have a lot of ground to cover, and reclaim.
In 1996 Orbital blew my tiny little indie-kid mind right out of the back of my head. I'd been tentatively making steps away from the boys-with-guitars hegemony of my friends' music taste for months, when pre-release press and encouragement from an older sibling led me to buy a copy of In Sides from the local Woolworths on release day. I can remember distinctly my first listen to it; pressing play, vaguely intending to do something else, but having all my attention rapt within seconds, and held for the next 70 minutes.
After 2004’s ‘Blue Album’, it appeared we’d heard the last of Orbital. Reformation in 2008 then followed by a triumphant headline slot at 2009’s Big Chill in 2009 showed that the Hartnoll brothers still had that magic thing that gets people dancing and going mental. So we shouldn’t be so all that surprised that 3 years later, they’ve turned up again with ‘Wonky’, a 50-minute grouping of generally tight set of songs that showcase Orbital’s electronic music songwriting talents.
A fantastic return which will appeal to middle-aged ravers and fresher ears alike. Ian Wade 2012 It would seem that with their Star Trek-sampling track Time Becomes, from their self-titled LP of 1993 – "…where time becomes a loop," repeats actor Michael Dorn – Orbital were already seeing into the future of a perpetual forever, locked into a pattern of repetition. Now, nearly 20 years on from the ‘brown album’, nearly all of what passed for pop culture back then is with us again now.