Orbital : The Altogether
Torch-spectacled duo become Paul'n'Phil's Mobile Wedding DJ Service featuring David Gray. Run away
2001 is not a good time to be a balding dance boffin. Underworld have imploded, Fatboy Slim is down the dumper and the Prodigy are lost in Met Bar hell. Perhaps in an attempt to circumvent this trend, the shiny-pated Paul Hartnoll took the unprecendented step of [I]growing[/I] his hair the last time Orbital had a new album to promote (1999’s ‘Middle Of Nowhere’). But it hasn’t worked in the long run. Though respect is undoubtedly due to a dance act who’ve managed a six-album, 13-year career, ‘The Altogether’ adds weight to the increasing suspicion that Orbital’s best work is, like their hairlines, behind them.
While albums like ‘Brown’ and the more cinematic ‘In Sides’ provided long, sumptuous journeys around foreign techno shores, never forgetting to bring you home in time for tea (or indeed E), ‘The Altogether’ offers 11 disjointed tracks built around half-witted musical jokes. It’s distressing to hear a band once imperious enough to sample Scott Walker – and get away with it – reduced to covering the [I]Doctor Who[/I] theme. The Ian Dury-sampling ‘Oi!’ sounds like something retrieved from down the sofa where it was dropped in 1989, while the fact that David Gray is a relative of the Hartnolls does not excuse his gargling vocal on ‘Illuminate’.
It’s as if the Hartnolls became addicted to the hysterical response they got in their live sets when they dropped ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ and decided to make an album full of moments like that. But cheese only works in the context of cool.
More seriously, ‘The Altogether’ sounds as though the Hartnolls haven’t been inside a nightclub for many a year. Though there’s a vague stab at,