Orbital – Wonky featuring Lady Leshurr (14th May on ACP)
Undefeated champions of British electronic music, Orbital get back in the ring with Wonky, their first new album in eight years, released on April 2nd. The irresistibly vibrant title track, featuring hotly tipped Birmingham grime MC Lady Leshurr, is a bleep-crazy electro-rap dancefloor killer to rival Azealia Banks at her most hyperkinetic.  Recently reunited following a long sabbatical, Paul & Phil Hartnoll are back on fighting-fit form & ready to reclaim their title as lightheaded lords of the dance arena. Both timeless & contemporary, heartwarming & exhilarating, Wonky puts a vividly modern spin on their signature blend of richly melodic, deeply emotive electronic.  Recently voted #9 in Mixmag’s ‘Greatest Ever Dance Act of All Time’ poll, Orbital will be bringing their live show to festivals including Bestival, Bloc, Beat-Herder, & Secret Garden Party this summer following their UK tour in April which includes a date at the Royal Albert Hall (10th April).

Undefeated champions of British electronic music, Orbital get back in the ring in 2012 with Wonky, their first new album in eight years. Recently reunited following a long sabbatical, Paul and Phil Hartnoll are back on fighting-fit form and ready to reclaim their title as light-headed lords of the dance arena. Both timeless and contemporary, heartwarming and exhilarating, Wonky puts a vividly modern spin on their signature blend of richly melodic, deeply emotive electronica.

Confident, energised and eclectic, Wonky already sounds like the duo’s finest album to date. Gleaming, whooshing, shimmering tracks like Straight Sun and Stringy Acid instantly tap into the warm-blooded rush and restless bounce of classic Orbital. These are future festival-rocking anthems in the making, right up there with vintage live favourites Chime and Belfast.

But there are nods to cutting-edge club culture on Wonky too – including a guest appearance by hotly tipped Birmingham grime MC Lady Leshurr on the album’s irresistibly vibrant title track, a bleep-crazy electro-rap dancefloor killer to rival Azealia Banks at her most hyperkinetic. The Hartnolls have even given a radical post-dubstep makeover to their much-loved techno-rock classic Satan, reworking it into a razor-backed beast of shuddering bass and stomping beats called Beelzedub.

“You will ever hear slight influences of dubstep,” Paul admits, “but we are equally influenced by modern folk records as we are by dubstep or modern dance records. I hear the influences of all those things on this album. Ultimately, whenever Phil and I sit down to write music, it has to be how we do it. Just following fashion is boring, it’s more interesting to try and say what you want to say – to let the book write itself, honestly and naturally.”

Like all previous Orbital albums, Wonky blows away narrow-minded caricatures of electronic music as cold and mechanical. Playful humour and warm humanity are woven into its musical fabric - from the heart-tugging harmonies and woozy vocal layers of Never and Distractions, to the guest appearance by the highly acclaimed LA-based electronic musician Zola Jesus on the brooding, atmospheric epic New France. These are machine-made symphonies to stir the soul and electrify the senses.

“When I’m writing music, if it doesn’t move you emotionally, it’s not working,” Paul explains. “It has to give me butterflies, I have to make myself cry in the studio. For me, it is the harmony that really pulls at your heartstrings. That’s why I always try and get that warmth into our music. I like melancholy as well, so I try and get that English rainy-day feeling into everything I do too”.

“It has to be emotional,” Phil agrees, “but that can be beats -driven, electronic, anything that gives you a response.”

Orbital were formed in the late 1980s by Paul and Phil in their native Sevenoaks, on the southern fringes of London, close to the circular M25 motorway which inspired their name. Embraced and championed by rave culture, but never fully immersed in it, they released a string of classic 1990s singles including Chime, Style, The Box, Satan and a witty techno-glam reworking of the Doctor Who theme. Besides remixing Madonna and Kraftwerk, they also worked with an impressive range of collaborators, from soundtrack composer Angelo Badalamenti to Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammet.

Putting Orbital on hold in 2004 after seven albums and more than 15 years together, Paul and Phil worked on separate solo projects and recharged their musical batteries. But a five-year absence only increased demand for their emotionally uplifting music, especially their legendary live shows in front of huge festival crowds. The brothers finally announced their comeback with a triumphant headline set at the Big Chill in 2009. Orbital were revitalised, rebooted, reunited – and it felt so good.

The idea for Wonky sprang from Orbital’s rapturously received live comeback. During a year of sell-out tours and euphoric festival sets, Paul and Phil fired up a glow-stick army of new converts at Coachella in the California desert before making a victorious return to Glastonbury, the site of several previous mind-blowing shows –they were even joined onstage by the current Doctor Who himself, Matt Smith. A further year of globe-trotting DJ sets followed, allowing the brothers to road-test the new album in raw form, making adjustments in the studio in response to crowd reactions – an unprecedented flow of energy and ideas between artist and audience.

“That was really beneficial to our writing,” Phil says. “Trying out tracks in front of audiences, listening through their ears, getting responses. That’s been a really good string to our bow.”

“Being able to literally finish a track on Friday, fly out somewhere on Saturday, try it out and then correct it on Monday,” Paul nods, “that has been absolutely brilliant. It’s way of writing that we’ve not done before.”

Wonky was recorded in a small studio in Orbital’s Brighton home base, then mixed in London with help from internationally acclaimed producer Mark “Flood” Ellis, whose stellar list of previous collaborators includes PJ Harvey, U2, Nine Inch Nails and The Killers. Paul credits Flood with giving the album a more rounded, holistic sound.

“I mostly remember Flood from all the electronic stuff like Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode and Renegade Soundwave,” Paul says. “One of his first and greatest loves is electronic music. He’s actually got a bigger synthesizer collection than us. He also has a good structural overview of music, because he’s not just a dance producer, he comes from a more holistic song viewpoint, which is how we like to approach it. I didn’t want to work with just a dance producer because I don’t think this is a dance album, it’s an electronic album.”

From the intoxicating energy rush and glistening fanfares of its mighty opening track, One Big Moment, to the restless bounce and optimistic glow of its galloping finale, Where Is It Going, the new Orbital album was designed to follow an emotional and musical “road map” that Paul and Phil pinned to their studio wall in Brighton. Mark Farrow’s sumptuous sleeve artwork for the album is based on this circular audio-visual narrative.

“We drew it as a landscape,” Paul explains. “We haven’t followed it exactly, we went off at times, but we came back onto the road. It was a real guiding light for the album, and we did start and finish where we set off. The whole process of this album has really been a case of the book writing itself.”

Reunited, rebooted and revitalised, Orbital have come full circle with Wonky. Paul and Phil can hardly wait to unleash the full album in its natural habitat, the live stage – from London’s Royal Albert Hall to summer festival stages around the world. The undefeated champions of British electronic music both agree this is the start of a bright new chapter for Orbital.

“We are totally refreshed after that break,” Paul says. “It feels like we’ve just started again. There is so much more in there ready explode out. It’s fun learning it all again. It’s brilliant.”

“For me these feel like the most enjoyable Orbital times that we’ve ever had,” Phil nods. “It’s just getting better and better. It feels like a new beginning.”