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4.4 out of 5 stars47
4.4 out of 5 stars
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Eight years after their alleged farewell with "The Blue Album" and some rapturously received live shows, Orbital return to record with "Wonky" and - having already been playing live for a few years - have given the world a chance to experience them again.

And this is how its done. Unlike their peers : Leftfield are noticably twelve years since any new material and still touring, The Pixies have been together longer now than they first were with no new material to show for it, and The Stooges managed to scupper their reputation with a muscular record of great songs with disgracefully rubbish lyrics in "The Weirdness". Orbital though? "Wonky" is as good as anything they have done in recent time. Perhaps not quite as overall grand as "Insides", but still the new stuff is as good as any other record. I always had a soft spot for latter period Orbital, particularly "The Middle of Nowhere", and this covers the same ground - the first half, coming in at five distinctly different, but related songs, creates a suite of expansive grooves, textures, and reaching, absorbing and layered, immaculately constructed motifs : each fall over each oither, rise, fall, ebb, flow, creating an everchanging landscape of beats and bounces. "Straight Sun" is ideal material for musical meditation, reminding me of the kind of evocative precise timing that Pink Floyd particularly excelled at. As one movement ends, the silence is replaced by a timely and appropriate following number, so it all flows in an immaculate, impressive sequence of experiments.

"Never" is not the sound of a bored band in their creative death-throes tinkering at the edges, like some kind of moribund middle aged couple suddenly turning to swinging. This is the sound of an invigorated duo in love with the endless possibilities of banks of technology. I press down a special key and it plays a little melody!

I was, truth be told, ready to write off Orbital without new material. The endless musical museum of touring acts that hide from anything new, being simply their own best tribute acts, without a new song since 1983, bore me rigid after the first tour. Then again, "New France" sounds caved out of the same rock as anything they have done after the date Kurt Cobain killed himself. Certainly, there's not a huge amount of progression since 1994, nor have the sounds changed particularly. But does one contemporize a classic? Does anyone criticize AC/DC for not having a guest rap by Kayne West?

On second thoughts, remembering Metallica's ill-advised rap with Swizz Beatz, or Jimmy Page and Puff Daddy, and not all progress is forward leaning : not that there is any change of the formula here - as good as Orbital ever were. It is only the closing notes of "Distractions" and the tired "Stringy Acid" that bore, because it is the same kind of uninspired, and forgettable near-the-end-of-the-album stuff that Orbital have been occasionally putting out since they formed. And for all the hype, "Beezeldub" is a reworking of "Satan" with all the good bits taken out being basically a experimental dub b-side remix of the type that New Order tossed off in half-an-hour to pad out a 12" : it's not bad, but it isn't their best thing ever.

The title track is fine as well, albeit living on the shadow of phased drum beats that are a Eighties throwback. The rap by the lamentable Lady Leshurr is though, tragically inarticulate, largely consisisting of the words "Dancefloor!" and "Wow! Wow! Wow!". How impossibly dull and boring, with tediously stupid words, and utterly unimaginative vocal melodies. The track would be a much better instrumental.

And here's the rub : with this music, the words have to matter : the music itself is so strong, and well constructed, any lyrical input has to have a reason to exist, otherwise it's vandalism of sound. Were this a home made cassette recording, the title track would be relegated, and deservedly so, to "rubbish b-side" status. Thankfully, order is restored with the final "Where Is It Going?", which picks up the mantle of rising sounds and aspirational, positive string sweeps. Built on buzzing bass strings and a set of delicate interwoven arpeggios, its the type of stuff I'd happily listen to all day long in the summer. The album peters out into the ether on these chords, disappating elegantly, with an assured, confident flex of musical muscle. Orbital. I have missed you.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 12 April 2012
Us of a certain age will always hanker back to the halcyon ;-) days of the first two albums. That was ground breaking stuff and most of the tracks stand the test of time imo.

This album was a strange one for the first couple of listens but is definitely a grower. Wonky is the weakest track by far I guess and seeing them do it live at Cambridge and The RAH didn't change that opinion for me. However, One Big Moment as the live opener was a stunner (as where all the other tracks they played off this album - barring Wonky of course) and that has really helped me get into the album as a whole. It certainly appears to be an album of tracks the Hartnoll's can work their magic on during their sets.

Welcome back boys - can't wait to see you live again in December.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 May 2012
The brown album is one of the greats of electronic/dance music and a bona fide 5 star job is ever there was. Wonky falls slightly short of it due to a couple of so-so tracks, not bad just not memorable. However, in Stringy Acid they have made one of their best ever tunes. IMO it's the outstanding highlight and the one which I play on rotation it's that great. In short it's a relief they're back considering the bunch of 3rd raters currently being touted as the best on offer e.g. Skrillex. In the context of their discog I put this just behind the brown album and on a par with Snivilisation in 2nd place. After the relatively poor previous two releases Wonky is a major return to form.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 April 2012
After an eight year absence in the studio, The Hartnoll brothers return with arguably their most instantly likeable album since their 90's heyday. Not venturing too deeply into the slightly more experimental territory they had begun to delve into post "In Sides" (not that I dislike a band being experimental). It's Orbital back to doing what they do best and bringing a huge beaming smile across your face while you lose yourself within the inviting lush soundscapes and beats. So it seems the hiatus they had been on has done them good and got them back on track.
The only questionable inclusion for me personally is "Beelzedub". Not a bad tune, but it's dubstep inspired sound kind of goes a little off kilter with the rest of the album as a whole and sounds a little out of place. I understand they wish to push their sound into new directions, but Orbital to me always seemed more like the pioneers rather than reproducing a sound that's already been making a name for itself during their absence over the last few years. But as I say, just a slight niggle and in it's own right not a bad tune. Overall, an excellent return to form from one of Britain's electronica legends. Welcome back lads, more of this please!
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
When Orbital bowed out with the "Blue Album" I felt their best years were behind them, that album featuring only two tracks I really loved (the first and last tracks), and its predecessor being frankly rather dire when compared to their previous albums. Upon their return to touring a year or so ago I thought an album was probably on the cards and now we have "Wonky".

A look at the booklet reveals that the tracks were almost all written by Paul Hartnoll, so in some respects this is something of a solo album albeit with Phil performing and producing alongside him. It starts fantastically well with "One Big Moment" and "Straight Sun", two tracks I immediately loved, and their sound is familiar but a little more mature. There's a bit of a lull with "Never" before the tremendous "New France" begins, but then the album loses its way a little for me, and the tracks are merely okay rather than great, the title track actually being rather awful and I doubt I'll listen to that one again. The much heralded "Beelzedub" is a remake of their own "Satan" played in a dubstep / drum & bass style, but for me it didn't really work. The album ends with the pleasant if unremarkable "Where Is It Going?" which features flashes of some of their previous songs (I heard echoes of "Impact" and "Belfast") and fifty minutes after it began the album ends.

There's nothing here that I'd list among their best work, and if I had to rank their albums I'd place it mid-table ("Snivilization" at the top). Not bad, but far from their best. Still good to have them back.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 4 April 2012
Wonky is the incredible new LP from Orbital, their first in about eight years. An upbeat, acid-tinged wonder of an album; it sounds distinctly Orbital but at the same time branches out in new and interesting directions. I got my hands on the album three days ago and I have listened to it from start to finish 8 times already! I like every single track so it's difficult for me to pick favourites, obvious stand-outs and potential single-material include the title track, New France and Stringy Acid, but the album is of that rare quality where any track could probably be released as a single and received well. I've always admired Orbital and enjoyed most of their music but I've never been a massive fan, but this album has made me go back and dust off my old Orbital CD's, and now they feel fresher and newer than ever thanks to this brilliant record! I won't go into detail about the sound of the tracks or the apparent genre influences, that would ruin the fun. Buy now and enjoy!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2013
having listened three times now to this album i find myself evermore drawn into the blend and mix of tracks the seamlessly blend and flow together .although each track has its own individual merit this is what and album should be a whole piece of music that captures your thoughts and imagination
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I have been a fan of Orbital since way back in their pioneering rave days so was gutted when they split and thrilled to hear they had reformed for Wonky. Wonky is another example of Orbital doing what they do best with their expert use of playing with their style of layering sounds for unique soundscapes only they can create so well but also evolving their sound at the same time. This album is nine pretty separate tracks rather than the all mixed and flowing style from some of their previous albums (well two or three of the tracks sort of overlap in a way), however I feel each track is strong enough to stand alone rather than need the whole mixed together album approach, my only grumble is that there are no mammoth ten minute plus length tracks like on some of their older work. It is a great balance of brilliantly produced fast to slower paced tracks and the strength of the brother's differing strengths (cinematic versus club friendly) really shines through on this album and it shows they are okay about dabbling with recent electronic genre influences too (although to be fair any recent electronic music probably has some connections to being influenced by Orbital to begin with anyway). Distractions is THE track of the album for me with it's change of pace and the way it just builds and builds and builds. The inclusion of the bonus live in Australia tracks CD is excellent as the five tracks are a much sharper sound quality than on their Glastonbury Live CD from a while back and these five live tracks have the usual live flourishes that Orbital do so well and make these versions that bit different to previous live versions I have heard. If you are new to Orbital then this bonus CD gives a great taste of where you need to go next.
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on 15 September 2012
Who would have thought they'd return after the "possibly final" Blue album? Yet, here they are to a lot of fans' delight. It's an album with a definitive "good feel" air about it; making it a joyful contrast to the previous rather gloomy Blue Album, accented by the extensive use of major chords and humorous sound treatments.

The sound design is a curious mix of very old sound patches familiar to old, old listeners of Orbital, and new ingenious sonic progressiveness. Noteworthy is the heavy use of 1980s style use of non time-stretched vocal samples, played over a wide range of MIDI controller keys. Few producers would dare doing that today, but they pull it off nicely, with a good-humoured smile and above all, with musicality. Frankly, it is difficult to be a musical person around computers. The musicality usually gets ruined early on, long before the final mixdown. Also contributing to the dynamic and lively feel of this album, is the very organic treatment of synthetic sounds, an approach which made listeners appreciate Depeche Mode's Sounds Of The Universe, if for nothing else. Few sounds are let to their own devices; most notes are modified with a very sensitive cc commanding hand, and hands were probably all over the filters. You never get tired listening along, because the album is far beyond the repetitive cell-sample, "machine-gun" uniform repeating sample stacks you will hear any minute on the wireless.

Musically, the album does seem to revolve around the title track, which by any standard is a perfect fit: "Wonky" seems inspired by past milestones such as Rough Sex by Lords of Acid and Southern Sun/Ready Steady Go by Paul Oakenfold: verruckt vocal samples at near lightspeed above the coloratura register; brilliant juxtaposition of quadruple whole note pad chords and fine-tuned rap phrases fired by featured vocalist Lady Leshurr. It's a perfect hit, and surely this year's best pop track. All the other tracks fade into the background of this ultra-innovative piece, but it is more because of the outstanding qualities of the title track than to any shortcomings of the other ones. And some of them really make you smile and enjoy the fact that you're alive and kicking.
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on 30 May 2012
There is a lot going on here honestly. Needless to say the production is really second to none. The musical direction is coming in from every direction with echoes of a lot of obvious influences here but every track a winner some stronger than others but it is really difficult to pin the the ablum down. Some may say its not as orginal as their old stuff well of course its not how could it be they are no longer new is a sence but as demostrated here have craftmanship and this album is well crafted you may sence infulences for me I get a touch of the ORB, The Prodigy even Pink Floyd and you will find flashes here and there even Jean Michel Jarre for some reason this album envokes memories of the docklands. Its quite a return and I for one hope they have more to come. For me I have had a hard time getting Sea of simulation by daft punk of the top of my favorite list for some time but this album just pushed everything nine places down. On the one hand listening to Beelzedub made me revisit Music for the jilted generation and Skylined not for any muscial reason but more for the desire to say something. Stringy acid demonstrates this with an understanding of experience that has with great talent been communicated into a musical form. This might not be the crazy heady sound that I rememeber from Glastonbury with forever floating red orbs (and forever waiting for them to come on stage) but it is an excellent and long awaited album and I am very happy to have paid cash for it and I'm sure you will too.
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