Orbital - Wonky

Orbital aren’t content to stand still and rest on the laurels.


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. It leaves the Chemical Brothers’ 2010 ‘Further’ in the dust, and the duo sound more vital than ever.

Eight years ago we would have never expected that a UK dance heavy hitter like them would need to give away tracks for free to drum up interest for their new release, but that’s exactly what happened. Album track ‘Never’ was released as a free download and made its way around the blogosphere as a tasty yet oh so chill taster, whetting fans’ appetites for the new material. More proof that they’ve tried to ingratiate themselves to the younger Spotify-loving crowd: they entered into a collaboration with 2011 standout Zola Jesus on track ‘New France’. This partnership had so much potential, but unfortunately the addition of the American’s vocals falls flat; without labelling her clearly as the singer contributing vocals during the song’s building moments, you might have guessed it was any other female singer wailing in the background. Far more successful is the title track featuring backing help from Birmingham grime rapper Lady Leshurr; her vocals add a bit of cheekiness with the rapid, quickfire lyrics in the style of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.

But solely focusing on the two collaborations would be a mistake. Paul Hartnoll says about his writing process, “when I’m writing music, if it doesn’t move you emotionally, it’s not working. It has to give me butterflies. I have to make myself cry in the studio.” People who don’t like electronic music often complain it’s too repetitive and devoid of feeling and therefore it’s boring. Definite standout on this album ‘Straight Sun’ directly challenges this line of thinking, as its driving rhythm worms its way into your consciousness and makes you feel alive. It’s intelligent and never needs to be annoyingly in your face either. ‘Stringy Acid’ is of a similar vein to ‘Chimes’, so it’s not a far stretch of the imagination that this one will soon be an Orbital classic too.

The humorously titled ‘Beelzedub’ starts off as a slow jam but as the Hartnoll brother dip a toe, then their entire bodies into dubstep, and they should be given points for taking a massive risk in sounding more like, say, Pendulum. There’s been some talk that ‘Beelzedub’ is simply a retooling of previous live favourite ‘Satan’, but this comment should be taken not as a dig but more as a compliment. It’s further proof that Orbital aren’t content to stand still and rest on the laurels that have made them ones to watch at festivals. ‘Wonky’ as an album is sexy, smart, and filled with all the potential to smash the competition.