Orbital (band)

Orbital (band)

Orbital in concert at the Brixton Academy in 2009
Background information
Origin Sevenoaks, England, UK
Genres Techno
Ambient techno
Acid house
Years active 1989–2004
Labels FFRR Records
Internal Records
Website orbitalofficial.com
Phil Hartnoll
Paul Hartnoll

Orbital are a British electronic dance music duo from Sevenoaks, England consisting of brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll. Their career initially ran from 1989 until 2004, but in 2009 they announced that they would be reforming and headlining The Big Chill,[1] in addition to a number of other live shows in 2009.[2] The band's name was taken from Greater London's orbital motorway, the M25, which was central to the early rave scene and party network in the South East during the early days of acid house.[3] One of the biggest names in British electronica during the 1990s, Orbital were both critically and commercially successful, and known particularly for their element of live improvisation during shows, a rarity among techno acts. They were initially influenced by early electro and punk rock.



Early years

In 1989 Orbital recorded "Chime" on their father's cassette deck, which they released on Oh Zone Records in December 1989, and then re-released on FFRR Records a few months later. The track became a rave anthem, reaching number 17 in the UK charts and earning them an appearance on Top of the Pops, during which they wore anti-Poll Tax t-shirts.[3] A few singles and EPs followed, and their first self-titled album, a collection of tracks recorded at various times, was released in late 1991.

In late 1992, the Radiccio EP barely reached the UK top 40, but it included one of their most popular songs, "Halcyon". This song featured a backwards sample of Kirsty Hawkshaw from "It's a Fine Day" (a chart hit for Opus III earlier that year), and B-side "The Naked and the Dead" was similarly based on a line from Scott Walker's rendition of Jacques Brel's song "Next". "Halcyon" was dedicated to the Hartnolls' mother, who was addicted to the tranquiliser Halcion (Triazolam) for many years.[3]

The duo's popularity grew rapidly with the release of their second self-titled album, in 1993. The album featured complex arrangements and textures, and opens with the two-minute track "Time Becomes", consisting of nothing more than two slightly detuned, looped samples of a Michael Dorn line from Star Trek: The Next Generation, "...where time becomes a loop" being played simultaneously through the left and right channels, respectively (until one cycle of phase difference has happened). This same sample was used at the beginning of "the Mobius", the opening track in the previous album. This audio pun was intended to make listeners believe that they had bought a mis-pressed album (Orbital 1 packaged as Orbital 2). The album reached #28 on the UK album charts, staying in the top chart for 15 weeks. "Halcyon" was remixed for the album, as "Halcyon + On + On". Versions of this song played live by the band have incorporated diverse samples, including "You Give Love a Bad Name" by the band Bon Jovi, "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle, and most recently "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" by the band The Darkness.

The first two albums are commonly known as "The Green Album" and "The Brown Album", after the colours of their covers.[3]

1994 breakthrough

Orbital won a NME award for Vibes Best Dance Act early in 1994, but it was their headline appearance at the Glastonbury Festival on 25 June 1994 that brought them most attention. Q magazine classed it as one of the top 50 gigs of all time, and in 2002 included Orbital in their list of "50 Bands to See Before You Die".[4] Orbital gave an improvisational element to live electronic music as the brothers mixed and sequenced their tracks on the fly, wearing their trademark head-mounted torches behind banks of equipment. Orbital were one of the few electronic acts invited to play at Woodstock '94.

The third album, Snivilisation, was released in August 1994. Alison Goldfrapp provided vocals on a couple of the tracks, including the single "Are We Here?". This track also included a sample from "Man at C&A" by The Specials. Among the remixes of "Are We Here?" was "Criminal Justice Bill?" — four minutes of silence, a reference to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which was in part intended to clamp down on the rave scene which had given birth to Orbital. The other track with Goldfrapp vocals, "Sad But True", was remixed for the Times Fly EP, the band's only release in 1995.[3]

The single "The Box" was released in April 1996, reaching number 11 in the UK, and its parent album In Sides, released in May 1996, became their second Top Five album. In Sides has since come to be one of their most critically well-regarded works. As with the previous album, there was a vague theme of ecological disaster and dissatisfaction with society.[3]

The following year, the duo contributed to film soundtracks (The Saint, Event Horizon) and enjoyed the biggest singles of their career, with a live version of "Satan" and their reworking of the aforementioned The Saint theme both reaching number three in the UK. The In Sides track "Out There Somewhere (Part 2)" was also included in the long-awaited game series relaunch of Test Drive 4.[5]

Later albums

In 1998, they returned to the studio to work on their fifth album The Middle of Nowhere. This was released in 1999, becoming their third top five album, and was a return to a more upbeat style, with Alison Goldfrapp returning on vocals, and included the single "Style" featuring the stylophone.[3] In 2000 the single "Beached" was released from the soundtrack to the film The Beach, mixing the brothers' musical style with a melody by Angelo Badalamenti and the words of Leonardo DiCaprio from the film.

The Altogether, released in 2001, featured guest vocals by the Hartnolls' brother-in-law David Gray, a sampled Ian Dury, and a version of the Doctor Who theme. It was to be their last album for FFRR, and had a mixed critical reception. The following year, Work 1989-2002 collected various singles from "Chime" onwards.

Orbital split up in 2004.[6] They played a final series of gigs in June and July 2004 at the Glastonbury Festival, the T in the Park Festival in Scotland, the Oxegen festival (formerly known as Witnness) in Ireland, and the Wire Festival in Japan, concluding with a live Peel Session gig at Maida Vale Studios in London on 28 July 2004. The release of their seventh and last original album, Blue Album (which, unlike the untitled previous green and brown albums, was actually named "Blue Album"), coincided with this final wave of shows. The album featured Sparks (on "Acid Pants") and Lisa Gerrard (on the final single, "One Perfect Sunrise").

Following the breakup

Paul Hartnoll continues to record music under his own name, including tracks for the 2005 game Wipeout Pure for the PSP.[6] He released his first full length solo album, entitled The Ideal Condition on the ACP record label in June 2007.[3]

Phil Hartnoll formed a new electronica duo, Long Range, with Nick Smith. Their debut album, Madness and Me, was released on their own label, Long Range Recordings, on 6 August 2007. In 2008, as Long Range, they signed to commercial management company Angel Artists,[7] which also represent musicians such as Dave Ball (of Soft Cell), The Grid, Paul Dakeyne and Icehouse Project.[3] He lives in Brighton with his three sons, Louis, Milo and Conrad.

Orbital released a two-CD/DVD compilation Orbital: Live at Glastonbury 1994-2004 on 11 June 2007. The collection contains over two hours of music recorded during the group's performances at the festival over the course of a decade of appearances there.

2009 Comeback & new album

On 21 November 2008, Orbital announced they would be reforming to play a gig together called "20 years after Chime" at The Big Chill Festival 2009. They precede this show with a headline performance at RockNess 2009 in June.[8]

On 26 January 2009, Loopz announced confirmed dates for their 20th anniversary tour. "The Orbital reformation gathers momentum with headline shows now confirmed for Manchester and London this September."[6] The concerts met with positive reviews.[9][10][11] The band's first performance after the breakup took place on June 2009 at RockNess.[12] On 17 April 2009, it was announced that Orbital would be playing at The Electric Picnic in September 2009.

On 16 June 2009, Orbital released a 2-CD collection of their favorite tracks. The collection, simply called "20", covers the 20 years since "Chime" and contains 20 tracks. “This compilation is the most definitive summary of our work since ‘Chime’ came out in 1989”, says Paul Hartnoll.

A new one-off single, "Don't Stop Me"/"The Gun is Good" was issued in 2010 on 12" and digital download.

At the Glastonbury Festival on 27 June 2010 to close their set, Matt Smith, who plays the Eleventh Doctor, came on stage and performed with Orbital using the sample of the Doctor Who theme tune.[13]

On 16 February 2011, Orbital posted a video diary on YouTube via their official website, Loopz. The video diary reported their progress on the recording of their new album, along with remixes of existing material for their DJ sets. Subsequent diary updates have been published.

In October 2011, Orbital announced a 6 gig UK tour (including a date at the Royal Albert Hall) and new album in April 2012. 'Never', a track from the forthcoming album, was offered as a free download.

Political commentary

Orbital sometimes incorporated political and environmental commentary into their music. The track "Forever" on Snivilisation samples a speech by Graham Crowden from the 1982 Lindsay Anderson film Britannia Hospital, in which he lambasts humankind;[14] and the track "You Lot" on the Blue Album, features a confrontational, partially vocoded anti-genetic engineering sample from Christopher Eccleston, originally from the TV two-part series The Second Coming written by Russell T Davies.

The track "The Girl With The Sun In Her Head" from In Sides was recorded in a studio powered only by Greenpeace's mobile solar power generator, CYRUS.


Orbital discography
Studio albums 7
Live albums 3
Compilation albums 4
EPs 4
Singles 18
Soundtracks 2

The discography of the Electronic dance music duo Orbital consists of seven studio albums, two original score albums, three live/session albums, four compilation albums, two DJ-Mix albums, four extended plays, and eighteen singles.

Studio albums

Year Title Chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
U.S. Elec
1991 Orbital
  • Released: September 1991[18]
  • Labels: FFRR, Polydor K.K., Internal
1993 Orbital 2
  • Released: June 1993[18]
  • Labels: FFRR, Polydor K.K., Internal
1994 Snivilisation
  • Released: August 1994[18]
  • Labels: FFRR, Polydor K.K., Internal
1996 In Sides
  • Released: April 1996[18]
  • Labels: FFRR, Polydor K.K., Internal
5 47
1997 Event Horizon (OST) (Michael Kamen & Orbital) 83
1999 The Middle of Nowhere
  • Released: April 1999[18]
  • Labels: FFRR, Polydor K.K.
4 191 11
2001 The Altogether
  • Released: May 2001[18]
  • Labels: FFRR, EastWest Japan
11 8 24
2003 Octane (OST)
  • Released: October 2003[18]
  • Labels: EMI
2004 Blue Album
  • Released: June 2004[18]
  • Labels: Orbital Music
44 9

Compilation albums

Year Title UK
1994 Peel Session
  • Released: 17 February 1994
  • Labels: FFRR, Polydor K.K., Internal
  • Released: 22 March 1994
  • Labels: Full Frequency/Ils
1997 Satan Live
  • Released: January 1997[18]
  • Labels: FFRR, Internal
2002 Work 1989–2002
  • Released: June 2002[18]
  • Labels: FFRR
2005 Halcyon
  • Released: September 2005
  • Labels: WEA
2007 Orbital: Live at Glastonbury 1994–2004
  • Released: June 2007
  • Labels: ACP Recordings, ATO Records
2009 Orbital 20
  • Released: June 2009
  • Labels: Rhino Records

Singles and Extended Plays

Year Title Chart positions Album
US Hot 100 US Club Play
1990 "Chime" 17 23 Orbital
"Omen" 46
1991 III EP 31
"Midnight" / "Choice" Orbital
1992 Mutations EP 24
Radiccio EP (including Halcyon) 37 33
1993 "Lush" 43 Orbital 2
1994 "Are We Here?" 33 38 Snivilisation
1995 "Belfast/Wasted" / "Innocent X" (split single with Therapy?) 53 Wasted - The Best Of Volume (Part 1)
"Times Fly"
1996 "The Box" 11 25 In Sides
"Satan Live" 3 7
1997 "The Saint" 3 7 104 The Saint (Soundtrack)
1999 "Style" 13 The Middle of Nowhere
"Nothing Left" 32
2000 "Beached" (Orbital and Angelo Badalamenti) 36 The Beach (Soundtrack)
2001 "Funny Break (One is Enough)" 21 The Altogether
"Illuminate" (12" Only)
2002 Rest/Play EP 33
2004 "One Perfect Sunrise" / "You Lot" 29 Blue Album
2010 "Don't Stop Me" / "The Gun is Good"


Featured songs

  • Sonatine (1993) "Belfast"
  • Hackers (1995) Soundtrack Vol.1 • "Halcyon + On + On" (shortened version) • used as the film's theme
  • Hackers (1995) Soundtrack Vol.2 • "Speed Freak [Moby Remix]"
  • Mortal Kombat (1995) • "Halcyon + On + On"
  • Johnny Mnemonic (1995) • "Sad But True"
  • Event Horizon (1997)
  • The Saint (1997) • "The Saint Theme"
  • A Life Less Ordinary (1997) • "The Box" and "Dŵr Budr"
  • Test Drive 4 (1997) • "Out There Somewhere? (Part 2)" • Background music for the main menu.
  • Spawn (1997) • "Satan" (with Kirk Hammett)
  • π (1998) • "P.E.T.R.O.L"
  • Human Traffic (1999) • "Belfast" • Played when the ravers are driving back from the house party and the sun rises over Cardiff (Viewed from above).
  • The Beach (2000) • "Beached"
  • Groove (2000) • "Halcyon + On + On"
  • CKY2K (2001) • "Halcyon + On + On"
  • FreQuency (2001) • "Funny Break (One Is Enough)- Weekend Ravers Mix"
  • 24 Hour Party People (2002) • "Satan" • Played when Shaun Ryder fires a gun and sells the mastertapes of the Happy Mondays album Yes Please! to Tony Wilson in Dry Bar Fac 201
  • xXx (2002) • "Technologicque Park" (original to this film) • Orbital appear in the film during the night club/rave sequence
  • ER (episode: "Insurrection") • "Frenetic"
  • BBC 40th anniversary celebration of Doctor Who (2003) • Doctor Who?
  • Keen Eddie • (original to this programme) score for first episode (2003)
  • Haggard: The Movie (2003) • "Doctor?" • Played while Valo and Falcone tape faeces to Glauren's garage door
  • Mean Girls (2004) • "Halcyon + On + On" (not on soundtrack) • Played in the last scene of Mean Girls before closing credits.
  • It's All Gone Pete Tong • "Frenetic (Short Mix)"
  • Wipeout • various
  • Forza Motorsport 2 • "Nothing Left"
  • Long Way Round (BBC series 2004) • "One Perfect Sunrise"

Selected remixes

To clarify, these are remixes by Paul Hartnoll and Phil Hartnoll, but not those which are described as an "Orbital Mix" involving The Orb or William Orbit.


  1. ^ "Orbital to reform to headline Big Chill 2009" on NME.com (21 November 2008)
  2. ^ "Orbital announce more reunion shows" on NME.com (27 January 2009)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "2010 Live Dates confirmed" on Loopz.co.uk
  4. ^ Q Magazine lists The RockList Site, accessed 29 May 2007
  5. ^ "Accolade Features Two Top Bands on Test Drive 4 Soundtrack; Orbital and The Younger, Younger 28's Included on Fall Release"
  6. ^ a b c http://www.loopz.co.uk/begin.html
  7. ^ http://www.angel-artists.com/
  8. ^ Orbital Set to Headline Rock Ness
  9. ^ "Orbital at Leeds Academy". digyorkshire.com. 2009-06-16. http://www.digyorkshire.com/HighlightDetails.aspx?Article=232. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  10. ^ Simpson, Dave (13 June 2009). "Electronic music (Music genre),Pop and rock (Music genre),Music,Culture section". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2009/jun/13/pop-electronic-review-orbital. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  11. ^ Dalton, Stephen (21 September 2009). "Orbital at Manchester Academy". The Times (London). http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/live_reviews/article6841688.ece. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  12. ^ http://www.bestfest.ro/editia2009/english/program/index.html
  13. ^ Performance on the BBC
  14. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083694/quotes
  15. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 409. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  16. ^ a b c "Chart Stats: Orbital". ChartStats.com. http://www.chartstats.com/artistinfo.php?id=203. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  17. ^ a b c "Orbital > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums". Allmusic. http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p23077. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 718–719. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  19. ^ a b c "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 13 August 2011. Note: User needs to enter "Orbital" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
  20. ^ "The Irish Charts". IRMA. http://www.irishcharts.ie. Retrieved 2011-08-13. 

External links

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