Record Review: Orbital 'Wonky'

“Love is wise, hatred is foolish.”

orbital wonky review

Like the rushing warm glow of meeting a dear friend whom you haven’t seen in many many years, coupled with the explosion of memories of the unforgettable amazing times once shared, Orbital (brothers Phil/Paul Hartnoll) are back. And rather than living on past glories, they have just made an album that is about to make many new joyous memories for years to come.

Having been on an Orbital album hiatus since 2004’s ‘Blue Album’, they haven’t been resting on their laurels by any means. Working on solo projects, sporadic touring and various soundtracks, it’s immediately telling how all these various new influences has brought a sense of clarity, purpose, drive, optimism and outright fun to their latest work ‘Wonky’.

The first voice we hear on the opening track ‘One Big Moment’ is the wise dulcet tone of philosopher Bertrand Russell reciting ‘Love is wise, hatred is foolish’. It sets the mantra for the entire album to follow. If you are receptive to such thinking, you are in for a beautiful aural adventure.

There are hints and loving echoes of previous Orbital historical highlights peppered throughout the album. But this is most definitely no rehash. There’s epic amounts of new found inspiration both in the vast sonic vistas of ‘Stringy Acid’, and in collaborations such as on the title track ‘Wonky’ with Grime Queen Lady Leshurr. That track in particular stands out in reflecting the zeitgeist of 2012, a seemingly chaotic blend of underground grime, rap and dance bouncing around mashing up numerous different influences that maybe shouldn’t work, but with the experienced hands of Orbital literally takes you to whole new sonic world.

In complete contrast is the other female collaborative track ‘New France’ featuring Zola Jesus (below). A gentle building sweeping number that sweeps over you in warm waves, allowing you to relax even more so into the many layers, depths and beats of the album.

It must be mentioned that there has been a noticeable difference in the creation of ‘Wonky’ to previous albums. The brothers actually tested crowd reactions to some new numbers at Glastonbury 2011 when they played a DJ set on the Arcadia stage. Having been fortunate enough to have been there, it was very clear from it’s earliest conception and the crowd reaction to the new works, that they were on to a real winner.

There was justifiable confidence in the release of the album, which was very clear in the fact that review copies were sent out quite some time ago. Having listened to it nonstop for the past month or so, I can safely say it’s on course for one of my albums of the year, if not indeed the best Orbital album to date. The band are justifiably renowned for their live shows, and once ‘Wonky’ is played again live on their forthcoming tour, it will no doubt become a contender for even higher acclaim.

There is a contagious palpable joyous optimism threaded throughout all the tracks, which rises to the simplistic iconic pure joy that is the closing track ‘Where Is It Going?’. It is everything that is good, and everything that is Orbital summed up in one track. Where ever Orbital decide they are going next, one thing is for certain, ‘Love is wise’ and I’m going with them….so should you.

Orbital is released on 2nd April 2012 on ACP Recordings.
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