Orbital is one of those electronic groups that I always just sort of count on to have a solid release. I've purchased almost everything they've released since first hearing their 2 release (the "Brown" album) back in 1994 and haven't been let down once.
Their new disc is no exception to that rule. When I first started reading about the brothers Hartnoll putting it together, I heard mentions of 30-minute epic tracks and lots of interesting new things. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it. When I read that the first 20,000 copies in the US would have a bonus disc of material included, I made sure that I got my hands on one of those. Once again, they delivered.
The disc starts out with what is probably the weakest track on the album in "The Girl With The Sun In Her Head," and even it has a cool story behind it all. Besides being dedicated to their late friend (and photographer of early electronic music) Sally Harding, it was recorded completely with the use of solar power (something the eco-conscious brothers are very much for). The disc takes off with the second track "P.E.T.R.O.L," probably one of the more aggressive and abrasive tracks that Orbital has ever done.
The last 6 tracks on the disc are filled up by four tracks, and two of them are 10-minute plus epics that go in opposite directions, but work equally as well. The two parts of "The Box" offset one another perfectly. The first half is slow and lays the foundation and theme for the drum-and-bass sprinkled second half. Tracks 7 and 8 comprise one of the nearly 30-minute pieces that I mentioned above. "Out There Somewhere" brings on the paranoia, starting out with strange samples and more grating sounds, but the second half floats into a light nether-region of smart-techno that's some of the finest out there.
Depending on when you bought the release, the second disc of material is either the compiled "Time Flies" EP and a 30-minute remix of "The Box" or "The Saint" theme and a couple live tracks off their Satan single series. Fortunately for me, I got the one with "The Box" remix, because it's probably one of the coolest electronic tracks I've heard. Although it spans for 30 minutes, it never gets boring and goes through about 5 different sections including one with a harpsichord and a grand finale with vocals. If you haven't heard it yet, try to find a copy now, because it's a masterpiece. The "Time Flies" EP is a decent addition as well for the money.
Basically, this release is everything I like about the Orbital and then some. Although there's nothing as dancy as their "Lush" singles or quite as classic as "Halcyon + On + On," it's another very solid album from a group who's been around the genre for awhile.