When monsters are loose in a darkening world, we need monsters of our own to fight back. After a barnstorming live reunion which saw them play to ecstatic audiences across Europe throughout 2017 Britain’s giants of electronic music Orbital announce they’re back for good – with new music and an upgrade of the legendary live show that transformed festivals across the world.
Reunited brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll release their new single, ‘Tiny Foldable Cities’ on May 11. An intricate piece of electro-hypnotica in the lineage of ‘The Box’ or ‘Style’, it restates why Orbital were always a cut above the bargain basement boom-and-bosh crew, and takes their signature sound forward into a new and fascinating phase.
Their first new album in five years - the one even fans wondered if they’d ever hear -called ‘Monsters Exist’ is out September 14.
‘Monsters Exist’ is a more classically structured Orbital album than their previous release ‘Wonky’, drawing inspiration from the international political landscape all the way back from Paul and Phil’s pre-rave squat-punk roots right up to the volatile tensions and erratic rhetoric of today.
Among the tracks in progress is a cosmic piece featuring an address for the possible end of the world by Prof. Brian Cox (“It’s Brian being emo,” says Paul. “Brian Emo”). There’s also an epic state-of-the-planet title track featuring “anguish, dread and News at Ten-style drama.”
When they’re in balance these leading figures of British dance music constitute their own self-regulating yin and yang. Analytical, detail-oriented Paul listens to everything from new electronica by Nathan Fake and Jon Hopkins to Beck and Belle & Sebastian.” Born-again German techno fan Phil is hammering Bicep and the resurgent minimal sound of Berlin (he went to Berlin for the first time ever in 2017 “and I was like fucking hell, why haven’t I been here before?”). If time is a loop then Orbital have completed their own revolution to a new equilibrium.
Orbital bring their groundbreaking live show to BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend in Belfast on May 25. Throughout 2018 they’ll play a string of high-profile festival dates and headline shows across Europe featuring new material alongside classics like ‘Chime’, ‘Belfast’ and ‘Impact’. (see full live dates below)
Reconnecting with Orbital’s past, acclaimed avant-garde artist John Greenwood, who painted the famous bulbous and organic artwork for 1994’s ‘Snivilisation’ and 1996’s ‘In Sides’, will return to create the cover of ‘Monsters Exist’. Some 20 years after he first collaborated with Orbital, Greenwood’s shifting shapes and comical hybrid organisms – the Chapman Brothers meets Monsanto, or maybe Hieronymus Bosh-bosh-bosh – feel even more in sync with an era obsessed with its own genetic monsters. “We’ve always loved John’s work,” says Phil, “and it feels especially right for this record.”
This surge of creativity shows how the Hartnolls have rebuilt one of electronic music’s best-loved partnerships after Orbital’s surprisingly bitter break-up in 2012. Driven apart by music’s strange and infamous brother-vs-brother dynamic, Paul and Phil didn’t speak for five years after the ‘Wonky’ tour ended.
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.”