30 Something

Orbital

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30 Something Review

by Paul Simpson

Fraternal techno duo Orbital missed out on a proper celebration of the 30th anniversary of their seminal 1989 debut "Chime," so 30 Something arrived in 2022, seemingly as a "better late than never" gesture. More than that, the release gazes back to the duo's beginning and puts their accomplishments, progress, and long-lasting influence in perspective. Orbital has already released several singles compilations and live albums in the past, so here they do something different, presenting previously unreleased material, reworks of some of their most enduring tracks, and a wealth of remixes by peers and disciples. Opening track "Smiley" samples a news clip about a 1988 acid house rave, attended by Orbital's Paul Hartnoll, which ended up being violently raided by police. Filled with twisted breaks and squiggly funhouse synths, it's one of the most exuberant tracks the duo has ever made, yet its alarming samples demonstrate how the rave scene's history has been bittersweet. "Acid Horse," sharing its title with a one-off Ministry/Cabaret Voltaire side project from the same year Orbital's first single appeared, is a sample-heavy, horn-driven stomper which almost sounds like a parody of Wax Trax!-style industrial dance from that era. "Where Is It Going?," written for the 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony, features an excerpt from a Stephen Hawking speech about the Large Hadron Collider, which then becomes pitch-controlled to match with the track's moderately banging beat. The next section consists of updated mixes of tracks which have been mainstays of Orbital's legendary concerts since the '90s, reflecting them as living, breathing organisms rather than relics of the past. "Satan" has beefed-up breakbeats and sinister film samples along with its growling industrial sequencers and Kirk Hammett's wailing guitars. The 12-minute tour de force "Impact" sounds gnarlier and tripper than ever, while other classics like "Chime" and "Halcyon" are slightly more complex and detailed than the originals without detracting from what made them special in the first place. The remixes all focus on material from Orbital's first four albums, with several tracks represented more than twice. Many are stripped-down club adaptations, such as Dusky's minimal electro take on "Are We Here?" or Logic1000's cloudy, bass-forward mix of "Halcyon & On." Floex turns "The Girl with the Sun in Her Head" into something new, with intricately designed synths which sound like they're splashing out of the speakers, while Lone's glitchy breakbeat version of the same song is just as splendid. Detroit's Octave One keep "Chime"'s lo-fi grit intact, but add some additional melodies which take the track to a different place. In line with the album's full-circle theme, the CD edition concludes with a sparkling 12-minute mix of "Belfast" by David Holmes, who helped inspire the track's title in the first place. It would have been more interesting if 30 Something dug a little deeper into Orbital's catalog, but as it is, it's a good balance of nostalgia and futurism, and a treat for longtime fans.

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