on 26 May 2004
I'll keep it simple; there are few (if any) electronic bands that have been at the top of their game as long as Orbital, and have decided to close the curtains on their career after 15 glorious years with the excellent Blue Album.
As with every Orbital album though, there is the odd clanger (Bath Time, Easy Serv), but the good FAR outweighs the bad on the Blue Album, with the highlights including the paranoid 4/4 acid frenzy of 'Acid Pants', the classic-Orbital-sounding energy of 'You Lot' (featuring a marvellous philosophical rant courtesy of Chris Eccleston), the 6/8 classical splendour of album opener 'Transient', the lazy 'In Sides-esque' head music wonder of 'Lost', and the mother of all album enders with 'One Perfect Sunrise', which comes second only to the Brown Album's epic 'Halcyon'.
Overall, the Blue Album has a real 'thank god its all over' feel, which is understandable given the problems Phil & Paul had with London records had during the making of The Middle Of Nowhere and The Altogether, but this is not a bad thing, as the music is upbeat and really accessable. One of the great things about Orbital through the years is that they rarely sound like anyone else (except the odd New Order-ism, and other parts that remind you of Sasha, Something of a Paradox and FC Kahuna).
Save the two bum tracks, this album is as good as In Sides or The Brown Album. I really hope they will be back, but i'm also happy that they are leaving the dance/electro scene wth a quality album considering they have been a part of it for so long, when the usual case for a dying band is 'death by repetition'. Phil & Paul, We wish you well.
on 22 June 2004
As a fan of Orbital from the 'Green' album to this, their final album as a duet, I was, to be quite honest, not expecting much. Over the past 2 albums, I felt that the Hartnoll's seemed to lose their way and focus on creating new sounds and experimenting with techniques... I was very pleasantly surprised! The Blue album is a total return to the stunning form of the boys' green and brown album. Sections of the backing tune to 'Acid Pants' is eerily reminiscent of 'Impact' and 'Lush (Euro Tunnel Disaster)' from the Brown album. The final track, 'One Perfect Sunrise', featuring Lisa Gerrard is a cross-genre collaboration that simply blew me away.
So, here it is, the lads last album. It's a bit of a "thank you" to the fans kind of deal. They have produced a great album with a return to their early sound but still retaining their perfected production values, sort of a refined rawness if you will. It's just ace really! Hints of their previous best bits but still with their own original flair. It's sad to think this is their last album together. I have enjoyed all of their work, even their recent, less highly regarded albums have still had many tracks/elements that made them worth listening to again and again, especially when compared to some of the dross churned out at the moment. I guess that's the trouble with being dance/rave pioneers. They created their own unique style, perfected/refined it, but then when they had near perfected it people complained they weren't as original as in the early days of rave/dance/electronica. I am sure their future solo projects will always have a hint of ORBITAL, however each brother ends up developing individually. Still, I will miss eagerly waiting for their next album. So long lads! [...]
on 9 June 2004
Orbital have not have been considered a cutting edge dance art for some time now. Once universally lauded as perhaps the most innovative electronic band of their genre, time caught up with them on their last album, The Altogether, which was panned by many critics as being a hastily concocted amalgam of throw away tracks and background sounds. The announcement that this offering, the Blue Album, was to be their last, seemed to confirm the suggestions that the band who were once brand leaders in the dance scene had run out of ideas.
Whilst it is not in the league of their mightiest productions such as In Sides and the Brown Album, it does though show a welcome return to some of the form that have made them arguably the finest ambassadors of techno of all time. Tracks such as Pants and Lost encompass a laid back brand of electronica, sounding jovial and moody respectively. You Lot has all the blend of darkness, sinisterness and euphoria that Orbital at their best became so adept at achieving. And to use a familiar sounding ethereal sounding female vocal on One Perfect Sunrise is a fitting end to the career of one of the true greats of dance music. Without major record label backing, The Blue Album may not gain the high chart place that most Orbital albums have, but their farewell performances this summer will remind Phil and Paul Hartnoll how respected and loved they are by their many fans.
on 23 June 2004
I'm sure all the other reviews you'll read will say "after the disappointing The Altogether, I wasn't expecting this to be good", and I, too, didn't have my hopes held too high, especially when the tracklist was released with titles such as "You Lot", "Bath Time" and "Pants", which all screamed of Altogether.
When I put the record in the CD player, I thought "this is make or break time". And, luckily, it was make. From the opening rumbles of Transient, to the track's climatic strings, I realised they were on to something. The rest of the album follows a more dancey direction, with Acid Pants and You Lot providing the typical Orbital stormers, whilst Tunnel Vision, Lost and Pants see the brothers play on their slightly subtler, moodier side. Not all is moody here, however, with Bath Time's lullaby and Easy Serv's muzak adding a light hearted side, whilst sounding focussed as opposed to the cheap, novelty nature of the previous album.
The record closes on One Perfect Sunrise, another title I immediately disliked but a track I immediately liked. A soaring epic, both uplifting and beautiful, with layers of female vocals and pad synths that are very much Orbital's staple sound.
Sure, it's not as cutting edge as any of the Warp artists tend to be these days, but it's a damn excellent album, and I'd say it comes a close third to Brown and In Sides in the band's catalogue. It's both a shame that this is their last, and also a relief that they're going out on such a high note.
on 7 August 2004
The main reason I bought this album was because I like Orbital; the fact that it was being touted as the Hartnoll brothers final album was secondary and I was eager to see if they'd recovered from the decidedly lacklustre 'Altogether'.
They have. Sort of.
If I could describe the Blue Album in one word, it would probably be 'inconsistent'. Whereas a lot of the tracks on their previous albums seemed to flow into one another, this one seems rather disjointed. Jarring, almost.
There's a real mish-mash of styles, too - 'Pants' and 'You Lot' are closer to 'classic' Orbital, being real techno stompers and 'You Lot' in particular has an anthemic quality about it. At the other end of the spectrum we have the truly awful 'Acid Pants' which could easily give analogue synths a bad name, the marginally better 'Easy Serv' (elevator music, Sevenoaks style) and the truly bizarre 'Bath Time', which wouldn't have sounded out of place in a Commodore 64 game circa 1987. That said, the closing track 'One Perfect Sunrise' is an absolute belter and reminds me a bit of Halcyon+On+On
For any other band, this would be a fitting swansong but for Orbital it just seems, well, mediocre. Certainly, it's has nowhere near the same power or energy as the 'Brown Album' but it's a heck of a lot better than 'The Altogether'
One for the fans only, I suspect.
The brothers Hartnoll decide to bow out on this album, which as a long term fan, leaves me feeling a little bitter-sweet. The reason primarily being that I thought their "brown album" to "middle of nowhere" stuff was just in a outstanding class of their own. The strain obviously started to show on "the altogether", which was at best, average, and a kow-tow to their old record company, before they parted ways with them. However, this self-imprint release leaves me sadly wanting more(hence 4 stars), and makes me wonder why none of the tracks have the epic lengths of yore (none are even touching the 9 minute mark), which really made them stand out in terms of their electronic melding of genres, because sustaining ideas to sometimes 15-plus minutes takes a lot of nerve, and a lot of imaginative arranging (not to mention the techno suss).
"Transient", with it's 6/8 time sig, is a beautiful way in to the album, and most of the other tracks (especially "you lot" "lost" and "bath time")are top notch aural fodder. However, "acid pants",the sparks collaboration, with it's ill fitting sample-&-see approach is bad news, even with a tb303 (sounds like a few supernova patches)burbling away in the background. Perhaps "easy serv" is too easy listening for some, but it still works nonetheless. But "Bath Time" sounds suspiciously like it was written entirely using soft-synths and a laptop, because it lacks that "gut punch" in the lower register, whcih you get from analog synths (even virtual analogs sound a bit meatier), but it's a beautiful twist on the "twinkle twinkle little star" vibe (perhaps Phil Hartnol was listening to gershon kingsley's "music to moog by" at the time?..)
So,even with two slightly weak tracks, I listen to the album regularily for that "wow! I didn't quite get that the first time around" feeling. However, perhaps they are genuinely knackered or feel a need to grow out of the techno genre they once were at the forefront of,hence the shorter track lengths. Even though they will be sorely missed, I still feel they may JUST do another album of total epic classics, cause this really is VERY MOREISH, AND HENCE ADDICTIVE, like a bag of favourite sweets, which just doesn't go "far enough". Who knows, maybe that was their intention all along (notice the cd number of orbitalcd001 )..what a tease..
Let's hope the brothers don't walk away from the genre forever..
on 14 October 2004
I've always found orbital albums a mixed bag, some absolutely brilliant stuff mixed in with some pretty mediocre tracks, and this was no exception. But who cares? When they're on form, Orbital have always known how to hit the spot.
If you like any of their previous albums, you'll find something to like here. Personally, I used to love their "in sides" album, so on this I loved "Lost" and "Tunnel vision".
But almost poingnantly, the last track, on this, their last album, is really their swansong. "One perfect sunrise" is _everything_ a dance track should be. And so much more than that; it's a distillation of emotional state, like standing on a beach at sunrise, like saying goodbye (or at least farewell) to a best friend, like doing the right thing even when it hurts like hell, like being invited to (and attending) the wedding of a girl you once had a crush on, like reaching out and touching your dreams, like wanting to cry but knowing you have to be the strength of others, like just *being there*.
Who said electronic dance music was a cold medium? I cried while listening to that track, while writing this. Goodbye Orbital, you'll be sorely missed.
on 11 December 2013
I've loved Orbital from 'Chime' days. Their second album - 'Brown' has been my favourite electronic album ever, I may have to reconsider. This release is quite simply stunning, has the quality of Brown which to me was more of a listening experience, Blue works on more levels and is very dancefloor friendly. It's not the best choice for driving as many tracks impel you to get your groove on! This was supposed to be a farewell, thankfully they're back, and whilst they haven't maintained the almost impossibly high standard, we can live in hope. Genius.
on 31 December 2011
Orbital were born out that early 1990s trance boom, along with FSOL, Banco de Gaia, Moby, Underworld....the list is endless and Orbital, at their fashionable peak, were outselling all of them. Sadly that's all they were, a passing fashion - whilst many of the other listed outfits are still plugging away at what they do best, the Orbital bubble has burst and left the brothers washed away. Four good albums in the 1990s established them as an electronic institution; then two lousy albums of just random patterns, beats and pads, robbed them of all credibility - even their low-brow fans realised what was going on and deserted them. This, the Blue Album, sees them tryting to return to their roots - musically and artistically, as the album cover shows - and they do manage to claw back some of their reputation. But sadly it's a weak, tense album of edgy sounds that try to impress by being odd, not good to listen to. They've simply run out of ideas and are filling a contractual obligation with the Blue Album.