Orbital – Monsters Exist
- David Pollock
- 29 August 2018
If there's such a thing as heritage techno, then Orbital are it; producers whose fame is generational, from the rave-bound success of their debut classic 'Chime' in 1990, to the huge impact of their Glastonbury-headlining set in 1994 which did for taking electronic music overground in the UK what Daft Punk's 2006 Coachella set did in North America. Since this heyday, however, the Hartnoll brothers (Phil and Paul) have become a more familiar quantity, with plenty of mainstream film soundtrack work, eight albums in total, and a combined eight years' hiatus in this decade and the last.
This album comes after their second and most recent split ended last year, even though we were told that departure would have been for 'the final time'. To and fro aside, however, Monsters Exist is a welcome comeback; albeit one which seems drawn less from the duo's days of chiming, acid-tinged monsters designed for use in an illegal motorway rave (the London Orbital, after all, is where they got their name), than from their latter soundtrack work for films and series like Pusher, Peaky Blinders and American Ultra (the latter two, Paul's work alone).
Their original sound is most evident amid the upbeat house carnivalesque 'Hoo Hoo Ha Ha' and the squelchy, acid-tinged electronic bounce and beats of 'PHUK', with the best of the rest of the record focusing on a darker-edged atmosphere. 'Buried Deep Within' for the most part drives along at an insistent, crunching pace, the occasional moment of blissed-out reflection aside, and the title track bears an effective sense of sci-fi darkness and foreboding.
These are most of the best parts; otherwise there's a slightness to 'Tiny Foldable Cities', an only halfway successful stab at Hudson Mohawk-esque contemporaneity on 'The End is Nigh' and a more than predictable spoken word guest appearance by Professor Brian Cox on the closing 'There Will Come a Time'. It's a mixed selection, in other words, but it all sounds cohesively and convincingly like Orbital, and old-school fans will find much to love here.
Out Fri 14 Sep (ACP Recordings).