London Records – 2001 - 62 mins
The brothers Hartnoll (Paul and Phil) may have wowed music aficionados with their self-titled debut, 1994's 'Snivilisation' and 1996's 'Insides', but their last release, 'The Middle of Nowhere' was an incoherent disappointment. 'The Altogether' seems set to continue this musical descent, falling between the two stools of staleness and mediocrity.
'Tension' is a speedy, techno joyride peppered with monotonous blips and bleeps: at best it sounds like Fat Boy Slim in an evil mood, at worst a substandard Prodigy cast-off. 'Oi!' is an amalgamation of old-skool electronic techniques - analogue techno, tinges of acid house and vocal snippets sounding suspiciously like the world's most sampled man (aka Mr James Brown). 'Oi' is like a snapshot of the entire album, which seems to have set out to revise a genre but instead reworks sounds and styles that were innovative fifteen years ago.
It's not all bad, though. 'Funny Break (One is Enough)' is easily the album's shining light, largely due to Naomi Bradley’s wonderful vocals sweeping over sublime breakbeats. 'Waving Not Drowning' (or line-dancing) has a twinge of C&W about it, kicking off with jaunty guitars that loop around clarinet samples, electro beats and synths. Also included is the live-show favourite 'Doctor?', a techno-filled tardis based on the TV theme of a certain sci-fi medic. But the good spell doesn't last and before long these sounds mutate into 'Illuminate', where David Gray's guest vocals seem completely at odds with what Orbital do musically; the result is an irritating soundclash. Are we to surmise that nepotism was the main reason behind this dismal collaboration? (Gray is married to the Hartnolls' sister).
The album's title hints at a return to form, an affirmation that they had returned from the middle of nowhere, to make amends for a work that was far below what they're capable of. Alas, it hasn't happened and even the exquisite ' Funny Break' is not enough to lift the album above mediocre. Altogether, a major anticlimax.
Tracklisting: Tension – Funny Break (One Is Enough) – Oi! – Pay Per View – Tootled – Last Thing – Doctor? – Shadows – Waving Not Drowning – Illuminate - Meltdown