Blue Album

by: Orbital

Electronica perennials Orbital faded very suddenly. In 1999 (circa Middle of Nowhere), ten years after their debut, the Hartnoll brothers sounded as invigorated and exciting as they had at the beginning of their career; two years later came The Altogether, which made them appear as confused as Eric Clapton's ill-fated T.D.F. project and as uninspired as Juno Reactor. By mid-2004, they had announced their retirement and revealed that Blue Album would be their last. The announcement was a surprise (if not an unexpected one), but the sound of the record that followed isn't. As could be predicted after the scattershot Altogether, Blue Album returns them to the green fields of their early days and positively brims with back-to-basics techno. The evidence peaks with "Pants" and "Acid Pants" (the latter is a collaboration with another famous brothers combo, Sparks). Both of the tracks revel in the type of glazed-eye acid patterns, ringing melodies, and stark rhythms that evoke decade-old Orbital singles like "Choice" and "Satan." Another Orbital prototype is the dire-warning track, here titled "You Lot" and featuring a sample from Christopher Eccleston's speech in the British TV movie The Second Coming (he's weary at the ease with which scientists play God). A few tracks reveal (again) the Hartnolls' early fascination with spy or sci-fi soundtracks, but here too there's little ground they haven't worked over several times before. When Orbital were busy collaborating with Metallica's Kirk Hammett or attempting yet more aggro-techno fusions, this was exactly what fans begged for: a return to basics. Unfortunately, now that they have it, Blue Album will inspire little reaction other than an urge to return to brilliant records like Orbital 2 and Snivilisation. ~ John Bush

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