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Orbital|Optical Delusion

Optical Delusion

Orbital

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After belatedly celebrating three decades in the game with 2022's 30 Something, Orbital released their tenth studio album, Optical Delusion, in 2023. The duo emerged as pioneers of rave culture back in the late '80s, and they've always produced dance music with a social conscience as well as a concern for the environment. They released a silent track in reaction to the anti-rave Criminal Justice Bill in 1994, and they recorded 1996's "The Girl with the Sun in Her Head" using a mobile solar power generator belonging to Greenpeace. 2018's Monsters Exist commented on the corruption of the planet's political leaders without naming names, and urged listeners to consider the state of the world and embrace progress. The visuals during the album's live tour drove home these points, yet the shows were clearly meant as raves and not political rallies, and the new material fit perfectly alongside updated versions of the duo's classics. Optical Delusion is Orbital's post-pandemic album, and it conveys the panic of witnessing the world fall apart while also remaining thankful to be alive and involved with the dance music scene. Most of the album's tracks feature guest vocalists, giving Orbital's concerns more of a voice than ever. On the effervescent dance-pop tune "Are You Alive," Penelope Isles' Lily Wolter defiantly resists being screwed over by capitalism, then clears the way as the splashy synths and elevated beats take over during the track's second half. Jason Williamson, the bloke from Sleaford Mods, directly blames the masses who keep voting crooked politicians into office over the rumbling punk bassline and pounding kicks of "Dirty Rat." Mediæval Bæbes appear on "Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)," reminding listeners that an innocent nursery rhyme has a longstanding association with the Black Death. Dina Ipavic's near-operatic vocals soar along with the sublime glide of "Day One," while Anna B Savage provides a more introspective narrative over the shuffling house rhythms of "Home." The two instrumental tracks are highlights, with "The New Abnormal" being an exuberant breakbeat-driven crowd-worker, while "Requiem for the Pre Apocalypse" is a chest-rattling drum'n'bass number that gradually reveals a brilliant light shining through the oppressive darkness. The nightmarish "What a Surprise" dices sinister voices into trap beats, and "Moon Princess" warns of computers that "try to make rational decisions." Even at their most dystopian, Orbital never lose their excitement for exploring new sounds, and Optical Delusion doesn't get bogged down in cynicism or nostalgia.

© Paul Simpson /TiVo

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Optical Delusion

Orbital

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1
Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song) [feat. Mediaeval Baebes]
00:04:13

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - PAUL HARTNOLL, Composer, Author - Mediaeval Baebes, Vocals, FeaturedArtist

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

2
Day One (feat. Dina Ipavic)
00:05:16

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - PAUL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer - Dina Ipavic, Vocals, FeaturedArtist

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

3
Are You Alive? (feat. Penelope Isles) Explicit
00:07:49

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - PAUL HARTNOLL, Composer - Penelope Isles, Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Jack Wolter, Composer - Lily Wolter, Composer

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

4
You Are the Frequency (feat. The Little Pest)
00:04:38

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - Jimmy Day, Composer - PHIL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer - The Little Pest, Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Lily De Brouwer, Composer

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

5
The New Abnormal
00:05:04

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - PAUL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

6
Home (feat. Anna B Savage)
00:05:18

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - PAUL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer - Anna B Savage, Composer, Vocals, FeaturedArtist

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

7
Dirty Rat Explicit
00:05:16

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - PAUL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer - Sleaford Mods, MainArtist - Jason Williamson, Author - Andrew Fearn, Author, Producer

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

8
Requiem for the Pre-Apocalypse
00:05:20

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - PAUL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

9
What a Surprise (feat. The Little Pest)
00:03:51

Orbital, MainArtist - Jimmy Day, Composer - PHIL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer - The Little Pest, Vocals, FeaturedArtist

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

10
Moon Princess (feat. Coppe)
00:04:18

Orbital, Producer, MainArtist - Jimmy Day, Composer - PHIL HARTNOLL, Composer, Producer - Coppe, Vocals, FeaturedArtist - Miller Coppe, Composer

© 2023 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Records Ltd ℗ 2022 Orbital Recordings Ltd. distributed by London Music Stream Ltd.

Album review

After belatedly celebrating three decades in the game with 2022's 30 Something, Orbital released their tenth studio album, Optical Delusion, in 2023. The duo emerged as pioneers of rave culture back in the late '80s, and they've always produced dance music with a social conscience as well as a concern for the environment. They released a silent track in reaction to the anti-rave Criminal Justice Bill in 1994, and they recorded 1996's "The Girl with the Sun in Her Head" using a mobile solar power generator belonging to Greenpeace. 2018's Monsters Exist commented on the corruption of the planet's political leaders without naming names, and urged listeners to consider the state of the world and embrace progress. The visuals during the album's live tour drove home these points, yet the shows were clearly meant as raves and not political rallies, and the new material fit perfectly alongside updated versions of the duo's classics. Optical Delusion is Orbital's post-pandemic album, and it conveys the panic of witnessing the world fall apart while also remaining thankful to be alive and involved with the dance music scene. Most of the album's tracks feature guest vocalists, giving Orbital's concerns more of a voice than ever. On the effervescent dance-pop tune "Are You Alive," Penelope Isles' Lily Wolter defiantly resists being screwed over by capitalism, then clears the way as the splashy synths and elevated beats take over during the track's second half. Jason Williamson, the bloke from Sleaford Mods, directly blames the masses who keep voting crooked politicians into office over the rumbling punk bassline and pounding kicks of "Dirty Rat." Mediæval Bæbes appear on "Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)," reminding listeners that an innocent nursery rhyme has a longstanding association with the Black Death. Dina Ipavic's near-operatic vocals soar along with the sublime glide of "Day One," while Anna B Savage provides a more introspective narrative over the shuffling house rhythms of "Home." The two instrumental tracks are highlights, with "The New Abnormal" being an exuberant breakbeat-driven crowd-worker, while "Requiem for the Pre Apocalypse" is a chest-rattling drum'n'bass number that gradually reveals a brilliant light shining through the oppressive darkness. The nightmarish "What a Surprise" dices sinister voices into trap beats, and "Moon Princess" warns of computers that "try to make rational decisions." Even at their most dystopian, Orbital never lose their excitement for exploring new sounds, and Optical Delusion doesn't get bogged down in cynicism or nostalgia.

© Paul Simpson /TiVo

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