Orbital - Wonky

Image For Orbital - Wonky

Here it is: an album that, in some respects, is more than just the eight years in the making. The first Orbital studio album since reforming in 2009, the anticipation for Wonky has been big. Brothers Phillip and Paul Hartnoll first teamed up way back in 1989, and twenty-three years later, they have dished up their ninth studio album. That’s impressive in itself.

One Big Moment opens up proceedings, with what seems a conversation layered over a simple, warm gentle melody underneath. Then without warning, we’re launched into electronic music – Orbital style. Heavy rolling beats, lots of high pitched glitchy stuff, and loads of analogue sounds. Then, the melody from the start returns; joining its now glitchier companions, and running at just over 6 minutes, it’s one of the longest tunes on the album and a promising start.

Into Straight Sun matches its name: giving off warmth, wooing with long sequential build-ups and layering so exquisite that you close your eyes and can almost see the music. Then once again, we’re dropped into a sea of fist-punching electronic music. There’s even a break beat in there at one point that makes you almost want to stomp. Despite its simplicity, it’s highly effective.

Never and New France then offer up more of the same: long gentle enveloping intros, before it all gets just that little bit more interesting. Never does it nicely with more than just a touch to 90’s UK infused-house, while New France featuring Zola Jesus – at under 5 minutes long – is one of the tightest little packages of the album. Jesus screams like a banshee, channelling Kate Bush it would seem, although it barely matters what she is saying. Her voice, simply for how it sounds – is amazing. Lots of energy and raw passion, combined with an organized chaos of lush melody behind it, produces a strong uplifting tune. While it may not be for everyone, (and could probably have been 40 seconds shorter), it’s too much fun for me not to rate.

Distractions is the same as what has come before it. Long gentle intros into a sea of Orbital inspired electronica. It’s enjoyable, despite the formula being predictable, with each track taking you somewhere totally different. Stringy Acid brings out the party with a very housey feel, and more than just a few subtle rave throwbacks and maybe even just a tiny bit of acid.

The second half of the album is more adventurous, with Beezeldub and the title track most illustrative of that. The former offers up dubstep in bucket loads, and even some breaks, techno, even drum’n’bass. Chaotic at times: there is truly lots going on, but it’s here that they play their experimental card best.

The title track and more than aptly named Wonky has Lady Leshurr rapping over some pretty crazy beats, and once again is all rather hectic; perhaps a little too much even. Where Is It Going? closes out the affair relatively simply by comparison, and does so with minimal fuss with some nice uplifting big synths taking us out comfortably.

As an album it goes to various places, and will absolutely not be for everyone. Some of the tunes are imaginative and forward thinking, while others will be perceived as dull or perhaps even a little over the top. It won’t go down as being their best album, but it is certainly not their worst. Orbital fans are, on the whole, likely to enjoy it.

What is for certain, though, is that Wonky is loaded with tunes that will sound infinitely better live. And as a duo that have prided themselves on making people dance, dating back to a time where they partied under the M25 in London, Orbital have just given themselves more than enough ammunition to keep doing exactly that.

Wonky is out now on ACP Recordings.