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By no means the best Orbital album, but still excellent in places,
This review is from: The Altogether (Audio CD)
I must confess that this album was a huge disappointment to me when it first came out but it has since grown on me considerably. To me it will never be a match for Orbital's greatest works; The Brown Album, Snivilisation, In Insides and the Middle of No-Where, but it still contains some great tracks.
Orbital seemed to take a different approach to this album. Gone are the longer, epic tracks, that were so prevalent on their earlier works. The tracks are generally much shorter and more diverse in style. This took a lot of getting used to for me because I was used to listening to Orbital albums in their entirety with tracks blending slowly into eachother and taking the listener on a voyage. This collection is much more schizophrenic. However it can still be enjoyable.
The duo draw on Punk Rock influences for tracks 'Tootled' and opener 'Tension'. Tension is a roar, stomper of a tune in a similar style, but not as good as, Satan. This tune translated very well in the live environment when they toured this album. Tootled, on the other hand, is a bit of a disappointment. The track samples a guitar riff from Tool's 'Sober' (a track I have always loved) but fails to do it justice. At the peak of their powers, Orbital would have taken this track to new dimensions. Instead the riff dominates the track too much and what we get is a repetitive techno rock affair that doesn't go anywhere.
Tracks such as 'Oi' and 'Waving Not Drowning' showcase a more playful and lighthearted side of the band but whereas Oi samples Ian Dury to create a magnificant funky toe-tapping delight, Waving Not Drowning becomes irritating and sounds as if its almost embarassed by itself.
There are more familiar sounds here too. 'Pay Per View' is in the more downtempo, spaced out jazzy vogue of some of the tracks off Snivilisation and 'Shadows' takes returns Orbital to their slighlty unsettling and trippy dimensions. These are very good and solid songs but to me not up with the brother's very best work.
The first single, Funny Break, however is an excellent tune and amongst Orbital's very best singles with lush female vocals, and heatwarming melodies. 'Illuminate' which was the follow up single uses the voice of David Gray. The result is a and much more conventional, electro poppy song structure. Its pleasant if unspectacular.
With 'Doctor Who', the band introduce their own interpretation of the theme to the TV show to great effect but in my view the standout Tracks are 'The Last Thing' and 'Meltdown'. 'The Last Thing' is a catchy, dancy number full of sytnth stabs and a powerful and distictive base sound. 'Meltdown' is classic Orbital. By far the longest song on the album the track forms many guises on an unsettling, harsh journey that is never predictable. The track goes from ambient to rock rhythms, to drum and base rhythms and back again and is never dull. The version featured here is about 11 minutes long but even this is considerably edited down from the original full length version (which is is even better) to be found on the DVD release of the Altogher album. In fact, if you can get your hands on it I highly recommend the DVD version of the Altogether. The videos lift many of the tracks to higher levels and the sound output is in 5.1. I would certainly give it 4 stars.
This release, however, only gets 3. I feel a little harsh but I am marking Orbital against their own very high standards displayed elsewhere in their catalogue. Bizarrely this album might be of greater appeal to those unitiated with Orbital's style of music. If you want to hear experimental, quirky dance, in a more accessable song based format and don't have the attention span to listen to longer 10 minute tracks then maybe this album is for you. I know some people who love this album and I would certainly give the guys and abundance of credit for trying something new at this point in their career rather than going down tried and tested routes - too many bands are too keen to stay in their comfort zone.
If you're more serious about finding out what Orbital were really all about though, go on for one of the albums I mentioned at the beginning of the review.