- Written and Compiled By Jones/Loopz
after Greater London's own circular autobahn, the M25 -- central
to the early Rave scene and party network in the South East during
the halcyon 'daze' of Acid House -- Orbital are manned by brothers
Phil (b. 09 Jan 64) and Paul Hartnoll (b. 19 May 68). .
their relatively humble beginnings producing simple but infectious
top 20 Pop-Dance tunes to their more recent sophisticated top 5
Pop-Dance tunes, classic albums, film & TV scores and beyond, Orbital
have crafted some of the most innovative yet accessible electronic
music since their inception in 1989 whilst at the same time retaining
great respect for their live work due to their extraordinary shows
around the globe which pay as much attention to the live mixing
of visuals and choice of imagery, as to the live sound itself. Perhaps,
though, one of their greatest achievements is their longevity which
is firmly based on a sound that is recognizably their own, coupled
with a will to proceed at their own pace and on their own terms
with little regard to the industry machinations that surround them
or the musical fads and trends that come and go.
from Sevenoaks (a suburban 'commuter reservation' somewhere in deepest
Kent) the Hartnolls grew up listening to second generation punk
(Crass, Dead Kennedys, Crucifix...), mutant-electro (Severed Heads,
Hula, Adrian Sherwood...) and early Hip Hop (Phil went over to New
York in the mid-eighties in order to 'find' Hip Hop). By 1988 Paul
had contributed two electro pieces (!) to FFrr's 'House Sound Of
London Volume 4' under the name D.S.Building Contractors, but it
wasn't until the following year that the first true Orbital release
emerged: the single 'Chime'.
original 1,000 copies released through Jazzy M's Oh-Zone label sold
out immediately through word of mouth alone and the track was picked
up by London Records subsidiary FFrr with whom it soon became a
nationwide Dance anthem. This translated into a number 17 singles
chart position and gained the Hartnolls a 'Top Of The Pops' appearance
where they 'performed' (ie. reluctantly) whilst sporting anti Poll
Tax T-shirts. A decade later, the often sampled and bootlegged 'Chime'
is still regarded as a classic and has remained one of the highlights
of many a live set over the years.
the period 1990-1991 the burgeoning UK dance scene was still very
much perceived as a short-lived phenomena with limited crossover
potential and the very idea of a 'dance' artist producing an album
as opposed to an endless stream of 12' cuts for club consumption
was still a relatively uncommon occurrence, yet when Orbital released
their untitled debut long player, or 'green' album, it was to unanimous
critical approval and was early proof that dance/electronic music
could after all produce albums that would have to be taken as seriously
as those produced by conventional Rock acts. Over the coming months
remixes carried out by Orbital became further evidence that the
Hartnoll brothers had by now established a distinctive sound of
their own whilst retaining a characteristically diverse approach
to their work.
the summer of '93 they became instrumental in setting-up and then
went on to headline the Midi Circus Tour, a roaming electronic extravaganza
which traveled the UK spreading the latest word on live dance music.
Next came the release of their second album. Once again an untitled
double LP, it became a resident in the upper reaches of the UK Indie
album charts for the next few months. The 'brown' album, as it's
now generally referred to, bore the now classic Orbital live standards
'Halcyon+on+on', 'Remind' and 'Impact (The Earth Is Burning)', going
on to feature highly in most end-of-year Best Album polls. A tour
of the US (their second) and two sell-out nights at the Brixton
Academy (New Years Eve and New Years Day) finally brought Orbital's
hectic year to a close.
1994 saw the release of their John Peel session (recorded the previous
Autumn) which featured two tracks re-worked from the 'brown' album
together with two new compositions. At Glastonbury, Orbital played
the coveted final slot on the second stage, previewing some of the
new material from their soon to be released third album. The show
was a resounding success and sections were broadcast by Channel
4 and John Peel. On its release, 'Snivilisation' entered the album
charts at number four, quickly followed by the single 'Are We Here?'.
The album broke the hitherto 'no title' rule and sported for the
first time a non-graphic cover courtesy of noted painter John Greenwood.
Musically, too, it was a departure from their previous collections,
the material being far more disparate in style than before. On the
accompanying 'Are We Here?' UK tour Orbital played to packed houses
throughout the UK where they played 'in the round' from the top
of a specially constructed scaffolding tower before heading off
to play the Woodstock 2 festival in the US.
saw the release of their remix of Madonna's 'Bedtime Stories', followed
by a triumphant headline slot at Tribal Gathering and Main Stage
performance at Glastonbury, which many thought even better than
that of the previous summer. The year's new material came in the
shape of a track recorded for the Sony Play Station game 'WipEout',
an untitled EP featuring 'Times Fly' (which proved to be too long
to be eligible for chart inclusion) and a track, 'Adnan', donated
to the 'Help' compilation.
April 1996 Orbital released a new single, the dulcimer-driven 'The
Box' (number 11), quickly followed by their fourth long player,
'In Sides'. Perhaps their most adventurous collection up until that
point, the album may have been a more studied and sombre affair
than 'Snivilisation' yet the Hartnolls' love of film soundtracks
revealed some startling results, and though it's well-crafted mixture
of beats and cinematics unwittingly opened the floodgates to a stream
of largely uninspiring copycat James-Bond-with-a-dance-beat efforts,
'In Sides' was universally acclaimed and entered the album charts
at number five on week of release.
May, the Hartnolls embarked on their first full UK tour for over
two years which included a triumphant performance at a filled-to-bursting
Royal Albert Hall, proving once and for all that Orbital had finally
escaped the limiting definitions of 'Techno', 'Dance' et al, whilst
at the same time taking live electronic music even further into
previously uncharted territory. By the end of the year 'In Sides'
featured highly in most of the 1996 Best Albums polls. On New Years
Eve Orbital played to 12,000 people at Alexandra Palace and released
a live version of 'Satan'. The track had originally been recorded
in 1991, though it had only reached as far as 31 in the charts when
it was released that year as a single. This time around it entered
at a much more convincing number three.
April 1997 Orbital went on to release their own version of the theme
tune to the 60's cult TV classic 'The Saint' from the soundtrack
of the Hollywood remake starring Val Kilmer as Simon Templar. The
film itself (understandably) received mixed reviews though the single
became their second UK top three success since Christmas, whilst
on the live front that year Orbital's main appearances were at Tribal
Gathering, two sets at the Phoenix Festival and the closing slot
on East coast leg of Lollapalooza in the States.
mark the first ten years of Hartnoll activity, in April they released
their fifth album, 'The Middle of Nowhere', which became their third
consecutive Top 5 chart placing, preceded by their most successful
UK tour to date.
-- After taking a short and well-earned break the Hartnolls began
recording their 6th album, The Altogether. The first track to
make its airing was Meltdown when it was supplied for a modern
dance project as
part of the South Bank Centre's Meltdown Festival which was curated
by one of the Hartnolls' all time heroes, Scott Walker. Orbital
completed a small world tour in South Africa, Greece, Ireland
and Japan. Orbital play a one-off live show at the Hammersmith
Palais as part of Q magazine's pre-award ceremony celebrations:
one of three new tracks previewed on the night ("Tension") is
later broadcast on Channel 4. On New Years Eve they round off
the year with a live set at the London Arena in Docklands with
Leftfield. The set is broadcast the following day on Radio One.
- Orbital release their sixth studio album ‘The Altogether’
and their first DVD with 5.1 SurroundSound. They headline Homelands
and embark on a UK Tour including 2 shows at Brixton Academy.
- ‘Work’ the greatest hits album is released. Orbital
close the second stage at Glastonbury on the Saturday night and
also play 2 open air concerts at Somerset House on the Strand in
- Orbital score the music to the horror film ‘Octane’
directed by Marcus Adams and starring Madeleine Stowe. The score
album is released by EMI in October.
They also score the US TV series “Keen Eddie” and begin
working on tracks which will become the “Blue Album”
2004 was the year Orbital finally
decided to take a long break (initially called a split!). After
15 years together Phil & Paul
moved onto different projects but finished with a few goodbye
shows at Brixton Academy show and closing Glastonbury on
the second stage. The 7th studio LP the ‘Blue Album’ was
released on June 21st.
- Orbital reform. The year will be a busy touring schedule appearing
at various festivals around the world.
and Compiled by Jones/Loopz
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