Review – Orbital – Monsters Exist

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Orbital-Monsters-Exist Review - Orbital - Monsters Exist

‘Monsters Exist’ is out now via ACP Recordings on CD, 2CD, 2LP, 4LP Box Set & digital. 

Where do you start with Orbital? Despite the occasional falling out and brief partings, the brothers Hartnoll have realised that their fraternal chemistry produces far better results (artistic and financial) than their solo endeavors. As the press release states:

Now the brothers have a pact. Whatever happens, Orbital does not stop. “We’ve learned to talk to each other rather than let things stew, and it’s much better,” says Phil. “We used to waste a lot of energy wondering what the other one was thinking and getting on each other’s nerves. But now we actually talk! And it’s brilliant.”

“It was silly really,” adds Paul. “We’re brothers and business partners and creative partners, so we were three times as likely to fall out. But in the end we had to remind ourselves that Orbital is something we’re really proud of and that we love doing it.”

This is obviously GOOD NEWS. Such is the depth of their back catalog that you could now have quite a fierce pub debate over whether you prefer “early” Orbital (1989-2004) with it’s overt rave influences or the “later” Orbital (2008-2014) that with maturity, reflected the developments that had happened and are sill ongoing in electronic music.

Orbital-Phil-and-Paul-Hartnoll Review - Orbital - Monsters Exist

Once the tears and shouting had abated, you’d reached some sort of accord and moved onto someone else’s round you’ll then have to deal with this new release, their first in five years produced with 3 X time Grammy award winner Steve Dub. As with all things Orbital, it tries to straddle several genres and tries to keep the various demographics that make up their support base happy.

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The Standard CD review

Monsters Exist – Doom laden synths – portending great crisis. Great opener. Their John Carpenter moment. It’s not hard to trace his influence upon their work and this may be the most overt yet.

Hoo Hoo Ha Ha – Insubstantial bagpipes knees-up ahoy. It almost sounds jokey? A theme tune to a sitcom that only has canned laughter as it’s soundtrack. Perhaps the most insubstantial track on the album, or is it, in itself a comment upon the vacuity of laughter in these times? Perhaps that joke isn’t funny anymore.

The Raid – Samples and drums. A rock track, almost (dare one say it) post-rock in it’s construction. “Life is a prison” it tells us. The fool in me would point to Depeche Mode’s imperial phase as an influence. I like Depeche Mode. This works for me.

P.H.U.K. – The single. You may know this already. Almost archetypal Orbital. Beeps and boops. Shift in track dynamic half way through and then the beeps take over. Live, a winner, on the album it’s a little incongruous compared to the previous track.

Tiny Foldable Cities – Atmospheric study-piece. When not trying to capture the spirit of rave culture they are far more successful. This is a dynamic, powerful track. Orbital are masters at bedding in forlorn piano riffs within their tunes to evoke a deeper melancholy.

Buried Deep Within – More of the same. Not a bad thing.

Vision OnE – Bit of a pun here. Joyousness and melancholia mingle in this track. Hey, if it ain’t broke…

The End Is Nigh – Can one use the term funky? Female voices coo over what could have been a Goldfrapp circa Black Cherry track. Arguably, this is one track that could have used a clear female vocal contribution. Still it works,

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There Will Come A Time (Feat Prof. Brian Cox) – The popular British scientist and TV presenter muses on matter cosmic. A plea for light and consideration in this time of confusion – “Do we embrace curiosity and love”? asks, Cox. With Orbital, the answer is always a clear and resounding YES.

As with most Orbital albums, there will be some bits you’ll like and some bits you won’t be fussed about, and this harks back to my earlier mention of which Orbital you prefer, as there is something here to tickle the taste buds of most hardened (and aged) Orbitalhead. Overall this is a dynamic, dramatic return from Electronica’s (once) squabbling siblings. It’s good to have them back. Here’s to a happier future that they will be around to soundtrack.

Track listing:

Standard CD / Deluxe Edition Disc 1

1. Monsters Exist
2. Hoo Hoo Ha Ha
3. The Raid
4. P.H.U.K.
5. Tiny Foldable Cities
6. Buried Deep Within
7. Vision OnE
8. The End Is Nigh
9. There Will Come A Time (Featuring Prof. Brian Cox)

Deluxe Edition Disc 2

1. Kaiju
2. A Long Way From Home
3. Analogue Test Oct 16
4. Fun With The System
5. Dressing Up In Other People’s Clothes
6. To Dream Again
7. There Will Come A Time – Instrumental
8. Tiny Foldable Cities – Kareful Remix

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Educator (sort of), Half of  , Husband. Grump. Comic Fan. Old-School Socialist.


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