The Middle of Nowhereby Orbital
THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, the fifth proper album of the Hartnoll brothers' long-running electronic project, is their mellowest and fuzziest, built more on texture than on tune. Those expecting a follow-up to the electro-pop hit "The Box" (from 1996's IN SIDES) are likely to be disappointed, as nothing here has that kind of melodic cohesion. Instead the Hartnolls have clearly been listening to the Chemical Brothers, as evidenced in the stutter-step synths of "Know Where to Run" and the fact that all of these tracks circle around a single whomping idea for eight minutes or so. Some songs build to a hypnotic lather by layering timbre upon timbre: bubbling bass, trumpets, chimes, buzzes, human voices blurred into pure sound, and the tinny synth strings that are Orbital's trademark. Elsewhere, "Spare Parts Express" translates the single-minded riffy repetition of acid house into smooth, cartoon-inspired swoops that weave a splendid polyphony, while the two-part "Nothing Left" is as abstract and jittery as big beat gets.
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