Album review: Orbital – Monsters Exist

Orbital album

Orbital album - Credit: Archant

Grown-up electronica that isn’t frightened to mull over the Big Questions.

Having broken a five-year wall of silence in the wake of an epic fall-out in 2012, the Hartnoll brothers were bursting with ideas and eager to get back into the studio.

Monsters Exist ostensibly draws inspiration from the turbulent international political landscapes of the last three decades, from the pair’s pre-rave, squat-punk roots to today’s increasingly fractured, erratic and ominous world.

In terms of taking stock, this narrative makes for a heavy load to bear, and the title track opens with suitably moody, Bladerunner-esque atmospherics and dramatic synth motifs. It’s classic Orbital, and one of the record’s more successful evocations of existential threat – great use was made of the acoustic properties of Newhaven Fort’s tunnels and chambers during the recording process.

Previous single P.H.U.K., The End Is Nigh and Tiny Foldable Cities find Orbital in the familiar role of sonic adventurers, aligning melodies and motifs with contrasting textures, creating engaging structures and narratives few others in this genre can match.

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That said, Hoo Hoo Ha Ha, with its sampled, stretched and compressed trumpets, comes on like a Euro-pop oompah band – a bad trip, but light relief against the likes of The Raid’s brilliant-but-grim tapestry of synths, funereal drum and percussion, and ominous warnings for the future of humanity.

Professor Brian Cox puts our hand-wringing in cosmic context on current single There Will Come A Time, bookending the LP and reminding us we don’t matter a jot.

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Rating: 4/5 stars

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