United Kingdom1 Events
International Events1 Events
Contemporaries of the Chemical Brothers and Underworld, Orbital enjoyed a dazzling 15-year stint before bowing out gracefully four years ago. Raised in suburban Sevenoaks, near the M25 orbital motorway which inspired their name, Paul and Phil began honing their unique brand of homegrown electro long before the acid house boom gave British pop a much-needed kick up its baggy trousers. In their secret sound laboratory, these twin Timelords of techno produced gleaming machine-music classics that sounded like Blade Runner on a Blue Peter budget.
Between 1989 and 2004, Orbital released a string of addictive, eclectic singles including Chime, Style, Belfast, The Box and Satan. Many became evergreen club anthems. Some even became Top Three hits. During their seven-album career they also worked with an impressively diverse range of collaborators including electro-folk siren Alison Goldfrapp, soundtrack maestro Angelo Badalamenti and Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammet.
Meanwhile, Orbital developed an enviable live reputation, playing knockout mega-shows to huge crowds from Glastonbury to Woodstock to the Royal Albert Hall. Their music featured on high-profile film scores including The Saint, Event Horizon and The Beach. They also remixed superstar artists including Madonna, Queen Latifah and their all-time robo-pop heroes Kraftwerk.
Since releasing their swansong Orbital opus The Blue Album and disbanding in 2004, both Hartnoll brothers have ventured into new musical territory. Paul took a more orchestral direction with his 2007 solo album The Ideal Condition, while Phil launched his short-lived collaboration project Long Range and carved a thriving career as a DJ. But they never closed the door on Orbital, and demand remains high for their fabled live shows.
"We've never said never," Paul explains. "It's something I suspected would happen, which is why we kept hold of certain key bits of odd equipment. There have been slight rumblings about getting back together before but it didn't feel good. This time it just felt right."
Orbital's live comeback will coincide with the 20th anniversary of their debut single Chime, a rave-era classic recorded for less than £100, which cracked the Top 20 and earned Paul and Phil the first of many Top of The Pops appearances - wearing Anti Poll Tax T-shirts, naturally. But the brothers insist the summer shows have nothing to do with nostalgia for the Summer of Love.
"It's not an exercise in nostalgia at all, the time just seems right," says Phil. "They came to us with the offer, and everything just seemed to fall into place. Also the timing seems good: 20 years of being together."
Headlining a musically adventurous outdoor festivals and big venues makes perfect sense for Orbital, whose magical Glastonbury appearances in the mid 1990s dazzled dance and rock fans alike. Their 1994 Glasto show even earned a Q magazine rating as one of the Top 50 gigs of all time.
Always leaving room for improvisation on stage, unlike many electronic acts, Paul and Phil are world-class experts at building up large crowds into a frenzy of excitement. Their offstage manner may be deadpan and low-key, but their live performances are orgies of sensory overload and revved-up euphoria. Their perfectly placed samples of Bon Jovi, Belinda Carlisle, The Darkness and Ian Dury always raise loud cheers too. Even at their triumphant peak, Orbital never forget their sense of humour.
"Audience reaction is part of the process," Paul explains, "It really becomes like a friendly football match between you and the crowd. That was always one of our strong points - and for people to say that about an electronic band is a real honour, because it's the one genre of music that's normally crap live."
Paul and Phil are still working out the detail of their indoor and festival appearances but they guarantee their trademark torch glasses will make an appearance. Innovative video visuals, another Orbital strong point, will also be part of the mix. The musical selection, meanwhile, will be wall-to-wall anthems. No new tunes, no jazz odysseys.
"We've got 15 years of active service, making songs," Paul says. "If you boil that down to a 90-minute festival set you should get something thoroughly good from beginning to end. Let's put some fun back into it."
As their 20th anniversary looms, the time feels right for Orbital to reclaim their techno-pop throne. Rhino Records concurs and celebrates this landmark anniversary with ‘Orbital 20' - 20 of the best Orbital tracks on a double cd. During their short sabbatical, the musical pendulum has swung back towards their electronic sound, with the rising tide of so-called New Rave artists helping to inspire a younger generation of glowstick-waving club kids. Bands like Klaxons and Hot Chip, says Paul, "have rekindled an interest in all things fluorescent and ravey."
There's New Rave, there's Old Rave, and there's Orbital. Get ready for a legendary comeback.