Orbital have been pretty major players in the scene of electronic music now for quite awhile. With one of their very first singles, "Chime," they established themselves as one of the outfits who didn't have to rely on beats to hold their music together. While they have proven that they can do a track of the dancefloor nature (the amazing "Lush"), they've mainly stuck to making intelligent electronic music in which the beats are just another element of the final product.
Another cool thing about the group is that they've never been afraid to try something new. While all of their albums have a definite feel that can be labeled as "Orbital," they also have a distinct individuality to them. Middle Of Nowhere is actually a release that sat on deck for quite sometime after some problems with the record label simply delayed it's release for nearly 6 months. For those listeners who heard and enjoyed 1996's Insides, this disc is a very logical progression to that release and is actually sort of similar sounding in some tracks. At some points, you feel like you've heard it before, then it takes off in a completely new direction. Like the circle on the cover might or might not suggest, the group has somewhat come full circle and Middle Of Nowhere feels like a nice marriage between the last work they did and some of their most early releases.
The disc starts off with "Way Out," which is one track that actually feels so similar to "The Girl With The Sun In Her Head" that it sounds like a remix. From the album notes, it seems that it may be the case as well, with bit parts of the track mentioned as being sampled. It's a familiar sounding intro to the album, replete with female vocals and bits of horns interspersed throughout. "Know Where To Run" starts off with a blast of radio-sounding feedback before some twinkling sounds filter their way in through the pulsating and a fairly abrasive (at least for Orbital) keyboard makes itself known and becomes the backbone for the rest of the track. Somewhat akin to "P.E.T.R.O.L" off their last disc, it shows that the group is perfectly capable of mixing harsh and sweet sounds to make something completely original. This mood follows into the next track "I Don't Know You People" and it's live-drumming rhythym section and distorted-vocal sweep (including the only bit of swearing I've ever heard in an Orbital track!).
As always (nearly), the group has a 15-minute 2-part track that is the epic of the album. "Nothing Left" starts out somewhat foreboding with a swish of ambience and distorted laughing, but soon turns into a light, beautiful track with vocals sung by familiar Allison Goldfrapp. The group shows off their playfullness on the final track of the album, which was also their first single from it. "Style" starts out slowly, constructed from bits of an old stylophone (remember that 2 Little Boys track?). The track slowly builds as it progresses until it becomes an almost orchestral affair. Sure to go down as another classic track by the group.
If you've listened to much Orbital at all, the disc will probably sound familiar to you the first time you listen to it. It's not to say that it isn't innovative or interesting, but there's a quality about it like you haven't seen a good friend in awhile and they're just telling you some new stories. If there's ever a electronic music hall-of-fame, these guys had better get in there in a dang hurry.