Wonky, Orbital’s return for the fore after an 8 year hiatus.
8 years, a long time to be out of the loop, especially in electronic music. Even for a group as defining and as long lived as Orbital, coming back into the mainstream after such a gap is no mean feat, which makes what they’ve done on this album quite remarkable indeed.
“One Big Moment” opens the album with the pitter patter of assorted samples; talk of war, terrorism, ghosts, rising up before bowing quickly out to shimmering electronics cruising alongside some deeper basslines and wonky synths. This is Orbital’s triumphant return, them acknowledging their old persona and embracing the new. But we must soldier on, the relentless pace of this album begins tugging at our cuffs immediately with my personal favourite “Straight Sun”. Piano scales make up the delicate background, leading us in deceptively before we are hit in the face with a wobbling bassline and shuffling synths. The pace quickens and you just can’t help but start tapping your feet, getting into the groove. Orbital at their danceable, raveable best. It’s just…fun. The newer brostep influences are abundantly clear, but IDM and even trance get look ins here.
“Never” again is deceptive; starting cute with delicate synths and female vocals it starts to rise dreamily. Once it gains sufficient stature it “breaks down”, getting a swift electronic kick. Even still, it manages to keep a fantastic pace and again it manages to compel you to tap your feet. “New France” featuring darkwave starlet Zola Jesus is certainly a deviation away from their norm, with her own goth-pop influences clearly in the sound. Sadly it doesn’t get my blood pumping in the same way; it doesn’t rise up, it just sort of coasts along. No matter, the epic “Distractions” is next with its airy vocals, sparkly yet seriously wonky synths and a fat bassline. It’s quite obviously nostalgia seeped with subtle techno overtones, especially as it segues straight into “Stringy Acid”, which feels perhaps the most out of place track of the album.
“Beelzedub” kicks off immediately with a huge bassline, writhing synths and some dubstep wobbles; it keeps a slower but still fantastically compelling rhythm, slowly becoming a drum n bass tune as the pace picks up and gets a bit dirtier. The title track “Wonky” attempts to reel the album back to familiar sonic territory, bringing a clinking, clanking sound to the fore and Nicky Minaj wannabe Lady Leshurrr’s, what I guess you’d call “rapping”, along with it. Remove the “lyrics” and this is a reasonably decent track.
Finally it’s time for the well named outro “Where Is It Going?”. With a much more open, sweeping sound, it certainly sounds bright and optimistic for the future, perhaps lacking some of the drive of earlier tracks but again with plenty of pulsating beats and hooks with plenty of techno feels.
I like this. I like this a lot. Much to the dismay of a good friend of mine, I’ve yet to listen to most of their discography, and this album has certainly prompted me to do so. Absolutely one of the best bleeps and bloops album of the year so far, and a great return to form for Orbital.
(Apologies on the length, I felt it necessary to give it a blow by blow breakdown, aha)