Orbital are not, I’m somewhat ashamed to say, an act that I know well. They’re also not an act who have been covered on this blog before, so let’s try and redress the balance with 2004’s Blue Album.
The opening track isn’t entirely what I’d expect of Orbital though. It has its pleasant moments, but a large chunk of it is experimental noise, which isn’t entirely nice to listen to. Transient is not, I have to say, the best opening track I’ve ever come across on an album. Until the end, that is, by which time it appears to have morphed into a lovely harpsichord style piece.
Pants is brilliant though, a lovely dark synth-driven instrumental, every bit as fun as the title might suggest. The morphing counter-melody line is particularly fantastic. Then Tunnel Vision is much harsher and darker, the kind of thing that you could imagine would be incredible live. Lost has a shimmering quality which might not make for such a special live moment, but is still extremely enjoyable.
Over the preceding decade and a half, the Hartnoll brothers had journeyed from the humble beginnings of Chime (1989) to the very pinnacle of their genre with the likes of Satan Live (1996) and their theme to The Saint (1997). By 2004, they were already regarded as legends within their genre. This album was the last before their split later in 2004.
The middle track is You Lot, sampling Christopher Eccleston‘s speech from the brilliant TV show Second Coming for the first vocal performance on the album. By the tail end of the track, the sample has travelled through a number of different bizarre vocal effects, and while the backing still seems to owe a lot to the late 1980s, it’s still pretty compelling.
Bath Time has a wonderfully childish, almost cheesy quality, with its plinky plonk lead lines and eccentric pads, and then Acid Pants sees the legendary Sparks turn up in almost self-parody mode with a typically charismatic vocal performance and a huge amount of 303 acid sounds. It feels as though they’re channelling their own National Crime Awareness Week at times.
The penultimate track is a pleasant chime-laden track enigmatically entitled Easy Serv, and then for the final track One Perfect Sunrise, Lisa Gerrard turns up to deliver a brilliantly ethereal vocal. With another driving electronic backing, it’s a fantastic closing track to the album. So all in all, while Blue Album may not quite be up to the standard set by The Altogether (2001), but it’s got plenty to say for itself, and makes for a very enjoyable album.
You can still find Blue Album through all major retailers, such as Amazon.