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Carl (middle) with Orbital









photo: Carl Noone, Jr.














photo: Carl Noone, Jr.









photo: Carl Noone, Jr.






Written by Carl Noone Jr.

Blue is a conceptual, orchestrated masterpiece of unparalleled design that lends a big hand to the Brothers' Hartnoll bidding farewell with masterful precision. In true English fashion, they bow-out with a spectacular collection of recycled gems and reworked jams that can equal most of its predecessors with its brilliance and is definitely worth the buy. Pick this one up right away, add it to your collection and I promise you won't be disappointed!

From start to finish, the 9 tracks of this ATO release lend credence to the fact that Orbital may be quite simply the greatest electronic duo ever. The beats and sounds produced by these two masterminds, on this release (and just about every one before it) are works of sheer delight that can only be compared to the Beatles for their groundbreaking genius and overall head-bobbing fun.

Through seven full-length recordings and 15 years of touring and performing live, Orbital have brought a high level of class and maturity to electronic music that might never be topped. On Blue, with the new tracks like "Acid Pants" (featuring the vocal talents of 80's legends Sparks) and "One Perfect Sunrise"(featuring former Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard), they show equal amounts of good fun and deep reserve, all revolving around a sense of melodramatic grace throughout.

And, of course, every true Orbital fan must know why these two brothers (named after Greater London's circular highway known formerly as the M25) have decided to call it quits, and why now? Why just a handful of live shows, and not one in the U.S., to say goodbye??!!! Well, we just had to ask Phil Hartnoll.

He had this to say recently to me about the break-up:

"It's many different reasons, really", he said by phone, "but it's kind of like, the track's closed now. We've gone full circle. You can get caught in creative loops as well in the way of doing things in the studio, and the way you work together. It's refreshing for us to base that, by NOT doing it together anymore. My brother's wife is expecting twins this summer, and he's going to be doing his own thing. He's wanted to go off and travel. It's just time, really. We're going to do our own thing now. It's great. I'm really pleased that we were able to do an LP, which was really fun doing it. It was a good thing for us."

"Will there be music in the future from you two?" I had to wonder aloud while we chatted. "Completely. I'm in the studio now doing stuff. I love it, and I'm having a great time not that I didn't have a great time before. I've been getting out DJ-ing recently. Paul does as well, but not recently. I plan on getting out there more", he adds.

"When we decided to not do it anymore, we said 'what should we do?' and we had a bit of time to play. This album was unusual for us" Phil adds, when I ask about the genesis of Blue. "We usually start from scratch. This one was a bit of bits and pieces in the studio we hadn't completed yet, we hadn't finished into full tracks. The way we did it was very much like when you get your first record deal when you don't have one - because we didn't."

Begging the listener to visualize, and forcing him to transform his surroundings into the "Land of Orbital", Blue is "just what the doctor ordered" for fans of movie-like surreal rhythms and funky Rave-y fun. Twisting, turning and totally diverse, Blue is a miraculous wave good-bye from those two guys with pen-light glasses!

We're gonna miss ya!!

For more Orbital info visit their website: www.loopz.co.uk



Orbital became one of the biggest names in techno during the mid-'90s by solving the irreconcilable differences previously inherent in the genre: to stay true to the dance underground and, at the same time, force entry into the rock arena, where an album functions as an artistic statement -- not a collection of singles -- and a band's prowess is demonstrated by the actual performance of live music. Though Phil and Paul Hartnoll first charted with a single, the 1990 British Top 20 hit "Chime," the duo later became known for critically praised albums. The LPs sold well with rock fans as well as electronic listeners, thanks to Orbital 's busy tour schedule, which included headlining positions at such varied spots as the Glastonbury Festival, the Royal Albert Hall, and Tribal Gathering.

The brothers Hartnoll -- Phil (b. Jan. 9, 1964) and Paul (b. May 19, 1968) -- grew up in Dartford, Kent, listening to early-'80s punk and electro. During the mid-'80s, Phil worked as a bricklayer while Paul played with a local band called Noddy & the Satellites. They began recording together in 1987 with a four-track, keyboards, and a drum machine, and sent their first composition "Chime" (recorded and mastered onto a cassette tape for a total production cost of 2.50) into Jazzy M 's pioneering house mix show Jackin' Zone. By 1989, "Chime" was released as a single, the first on Jazzy M 's label, Oh-Zone Records. The following year, ffrr Records re-released the single and signed a contract with the duo -- christened Orbital in honor of the M25, the circular London expressway which speeded thousands of club kids to the hinterlands for raves during the blissed-out Summer of Love. "Chime" hit number 17 on the British charts in March 1990, and led to an appearance on the TV chart show Top of the Pops, where the Hartnolls stared at the audience from behind their synth banks. "Omen" barely missed the Top 40 in September, but "Satan" made number 31 early in 1991, with a sample lifted from the Butthole Surfers .

Orbital 's untitled first LP, released in September 1991, consisted of all new material -- that is, if live versions of "Chime" and the fourth single "Midnight" are considered new works. Unlike the Hartnolls' later albums, though, the debut was more of a collection of songs than a true full-length work, its cut-and-paste attitude typical of many techno LPs of the time. During 1992, Orbital continued their chart success with two EPs. The Mutations remix work -- with contributions from Meat Beat Manifesto ,Moby , and Joey Beltram -- hit number 24 in February. Orbital returned Meat Beat's favor later that year by remixing "Edge of No Control," and later reworked songs by Queen Latifah ,the Shamen , and EMF as well. The second EP, Radiccio, reached the Top 40 in September. It marked the Hartnolls' debut for Internal Records in England, though ffrr retained control of the duo's American contract, beginning with a U.S. release of the debut album in 1992.

The duo entered 1993 ready to free techno from its club restraints, beginning in June with a second LP. Also untitled, but nicknamed the "brown" album as an alternative to the "green" debut, it unified the disjointed feel of its predecessor and hit number 28 on the British charts. The Hartnolls continued the electronic revolution that fall during their first American tour. Phil and Paul had first played live at a pub in Kent in 1989 -- before the release of "Chime" -- and had continued to make concert performance a cornerstone of their appeal during 1991-1993, though the U.S. had remained unaware of the fact. On a tour with Moby and Aphex Twin ,Orbital proved to Americans that techno shows could actually be diverting for the undrugged multitudes. With no reliance on DATs (the savior of most live techno acts), Phil and Paul allowed an element of improvisation into the previously sterile field, making their live shows actually sound live. The concerts were just as entertaining to watch as well, with the Hartnolls' constant presence behind the banks -- a pair of flashlights attached to each head, bobbing in time to the music -- underscoring the impressive light shows and visuals. The early 1994 release of the Peel Session EP, recorded live at the BBC's Maida Vale studios, cemented onto wax what concertgoers already knew. That summer proved to be the pinnacle of Orbital 's performance ascent; an appearance at Woodstock 2 and a headlining spot at the Glastonbury Festival (both to rave reviews) confirmed the duo's status as one of the premier live acts in the field of popular music, period.

The U.S.-only Diversions EP -- released in March 1994 as a supplement to the second LP -- selected tracks from both the Peel Session and the album's single "Lush." Following in August 1994, Snivilization became Orbital 's first named LP. The duo had not left political/social comment completely behind on the previous album -- "Halcyon + On + On" was in fact a response to the drug used for seven years by he $Hartnolls' own mother -- but Snivilization pushed Orbital into the much more active world of political protest. It focused on the Criminal Justice Bill of 1994, which gave police greater legal action both to break up raves and prosecute the promoters and participants. The wide variety of styles signalled that this was Orbital 's most accomplished work. Snivilization also became the duo's biggest hit, reaching number four in Great Britain's album charts.

During 1995, the brothers concerned themselves with touring, headlining the Glastonbury Festival in addition to the dance extravaganza Tribal Gathering. In May 1996, Orbital set out on quite a different tour altogether; the duo played untraditional, seated venues -- including the prestigious Royal Albert Hall -- and appeared on stage earlier in the night, much like typical rock bands. Two months later, Phil and Paul released "The Box," a 28-minute single of orchestral proportions. It screamed of prog-rock excess -- especially the inclusion of synth harpsichords -- and appeared to be the first misstep in a very studied career. The resulting In Sides, however, became their most acclaimed album, with many excellent reviews in publications that had never covered electronic music. It was over three years before the release of Orbital 's next album, 1999's Middle of Nowhere. The Altogether emerged in 2001; The next year Orbital celebrated over a decade together with the release of the Work 1989-2002 retrospective.

- John Bush, All Music Guide  



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