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Paul Hartnoll - 8:58 Project

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Wickerman
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Reviews

Post by Wickerman »

Has anyone spotted any reviews or previews for the 8:58 album? When an album release is getting near - particularly in traditional cases like this when the whole thing hasn't been leaked - I love reading all the reviews as they spring up on blogs and in music magazines. It really heightens the anticipation!

But I can't find a thing about this one. It's crazy what difference a name makes. Can you imagine what a frenzy of coverage it would be getting if it was coming out as Orbital?!

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Post by stargurl »

Here's a review from Brighton's Finest
8.58 - 8.58

House and dance music has been bedevilled by an extraordinary amount of blandness, mediocrity and unmusicality since it reared it's otherworldly head in the machine-obsessed 80s. Only a handful of acts have stood the test of time, mainly those who could combine a purposeful musicality with a higher grasp of production, and via words and/or imagery, propel the music beyond the bland 'raise your hands in the air' or the four-to-the-floor brain sapping monotony of your average meat and two veg dance. Orbital were one of those who took dance music to a higher realm; from the groundbreaking Chime to the epic to the poignant story-based Halcyon, the Hartnoll's music has always been much more than just about losing yourself on the dancefloor, although it does rather agreeably lend itself to that kind of behaviour, as the best rock'n'roll always does.

Hartnoll has claimed to be always interested in the concept and ideas of 'time', and his new solo project (essentially Orbital but without his brother Phil) is based on a doodle he first drew as a teenager, a clock face with the time frozen at 8:58. "8:58 am is that moment when you've got to make up your mind," he says about the day ahead. For Paul, it was decision time, to forge ahead with Orbital, or to strike out on his own, a decision that was only formally announced last autumn.

'How we live by time, how we live by the watch, the clock, brought up to respect the clock', intones the menacing voice of Irish actor Cillian Murphy (Inception, Peaky Blinders et al) before stabbing and symphonic synths and sound effects gradually build into an euphoric soundscape on the opening track, which also, rather confusingly, carries the name 8.58. It's classic Orbital, progressive EDM that is multifaceted, never predictable, clear as a bell, strong, rich and dynamic, and with several discernible melodies within.

An album highlight, Please, is a re-tread of the 2007 original, released on Hartnoll's one and only previous solo album, and is a more straightforward, albeit still out-there, banging house stomper, Lianne Hall's mangled voice and the four-to-the-floor beats a prelude to some more synth strings, before Robert Smith's distinctive and deceptively languid vocal adds a certain playfulness to the proceedings, with Lianne's yearning voice providing the neat female counterpoint. Although it is a bit cheeky to haul back an old song, it's a great tune, Hartnoll has given it a new mix, and the original was somewhat lost when originally released, the old school house flavours remaining timeless.

The Past Now is also a composite piece, beginning with the ethereal vocals of folk singer Lisa Knapp, complimenting the haunting ambient atmospherics, before a complex and inviting melody welds gothic 80s synth-dance with dark motorik rhythms, that are both propulsive and dreamy. Meanwhile singer songwriter Ed Harcourt delivers a powerful and passionate vocal performance on Villain, again a song that vaguely recalls the 80s thanks to the one note synth melodies and textures, and drum pad rhythms, within the generally foreboding atmosphere.

Cilian Murphy returns for The Clock, a reprise of lead track 8.58, but this time accompanied by some acid-inflected industrial hard house beats and bleeps, to be interrupted by the sound of a digital alarm going off as Murphy says: 'brace yourself for freedom.. now….', a call to let go as it were, in mind and in body, the deep and squelchy bass groove inviting you to resist if you can...

The Cure's A Forest then appears as a bit of a surprise, because we already know this song well, a tune that was in Hartnoll's head (and is part of his formative years) when he came up with the idea of approaching Northumbria's songbirds The Unthanks to lend their breathy and beguiling voices, which they obliged at their studio in their home. Building and building, The Unthanks repeating the songs 'again and again and again' refrain, as big Leftfield-type drums close it out.

Instrumental numbers Broken Up is a more ambient number, sparse old school hip hop drum machine beats underpinning the multilayered synths, swelling textures and techno bleeps, while Nearly There, appropriately enough the penultimate track, is propulsive, fast, and also technoesque, with echoes of Underworld's Cowgirl a signpost, as Hartnoll re-lives those early days of searching for the next rave; a soundtrack to nowhere, and yet everywhere, fast and furious.

Final track Cemetery features Fable, a relatively unknown singer, but with a bright future ahead, her powerful and soulful voice sounding well beyond her young years, lending this euphoric and melodic banger the required bite as the grooves ebb and flow in best dance floor action

Rewarding several listens, there is, as always with Hartnoll, loads going on, the very thoughtful melodies, textures, sounds and effects constructed with mechanical precision, but with a fluidity that transforms the outwardly digitalised soundscape into an organic and warm record. It's a difficult trick to pull off, but Hartnoll's liberal use of vocals, electronicalised real instrumentation, and field sound recordings have helped to transform 8.58 into something magical, and yet human, with the underlying theme a wake up call to shrug off a possible dystopian future.
Jeff Hemmings

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Re: Reviews

Post by Pirtek »

That about sums it up. Great review.

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