Orbital (1993 album)

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Studio album by
Released24 May 1993
Orbital chronology
Singles from Orbital
  1. "Halcyon"
    Released: September 1992
  2. "Lush"
    Released: August 1993

Orbital (also known as Orbital 2 or the Brown Album) is the second studio album by English electronic music duo Orbital, released on 24 May 1993 by Internal and FFRR Records. Like the duo's debut album, the album was officially untitled.

The album peaked at number 28 on the UK Albums Chart.


On Orbital the duo aimed to make more atmospheric music than the dance raves of their first album. They used more complex rhythms and denser arrangements on the appropriately named pieces entitled "Lush" but still proving themselves capable of making quality pop music on "Halcyon + On + On", with vocals from Kirsty Hawkshaw of Opus III.

The album begins with "Time Becomes", which uses the same speech sample by the actor Michael Dorn in Star Trek: The Next Generation (Time squared - season 2 episode 13, Worf - 20'30 : "There is the theory of the Möbius. A twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop") which opened their first album. The piece uses phasing, a technique popularized by Steve Reich, in which two identical samples are repeated at slightly different speeds. The brothers enjoy aural puns, and the use of this sample again, as well as the muffled intro on "Planet of the Shapes" with intentional addition of record static and crackles, followed by the sound of a needle skipping grooves then scratching across the record, was meant to trick fans who bought the vinyl edition into thinking their copy was less than perfect.

The second song on the album, "Planet of the Shapes", contains a sample from the movie Withnail & I ("even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day"). "Impact" samples a line from "a French film dubbed into English" with a "conspiracy, alien plot" that the band no longer remembers the name of.[2][3][4]

Meat Beat Manifesto were an influence on the album, after Orbital toured with the group in the United States ahead of recording it.[5] The breakbeat on "Impact" was provided by Jack Dangers[6] and "Remind" is an instrumental re-recording of Orbital's "Mind the Bend the Mind" remix of "Mindstream" by Meat Beat Manifesto, which removed all elements of "Mindstream" from the piece.[7] The remix and final work was inspired by the Fabio Paras remix of React 2 Rhythm's "I Know You Like It".[8]

"Walk Now..." samples the sound of a Sydney zebra crossing alert and a didgeridoo, which were both recorded after a trip to Australia to perform at an illegal rave named Welcome 92.[9]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Encyclopedia of Popular Music[11]
Entertainment WeeklyA[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide[15]
Slant Magazine[17]
The Village VoiceC+[18]

The album received widespread acclaim. In the UK, NME praised the record, saying, "The techno album is a doughty brute to master. Only a few have managed it successfully [...] but Phil and Paul Hartnoll have done it twice... The expression 'intelligent ambience' is bandied around to describe spacey dance music with undue regularity, but Untitled actually satisfies the description. Scientific and terrific."[13] Q also recognised that the duo had made a second successful album, saying, "Like their first album, Orbital's current effort is a finely balanced combination of muso trickery and astute dance tracks... Again, like the latter, it benefits from repeated listening."[14] Select stated that "the marvel is that they create such vastness in your ear from micro-minimalist ingredients", and described the record as "infinitely inventive, unique in its conception and electronically sexy".[16]

Melody Maker claimed that "This new album (untitled, like the first) puts them firmly back in the firmament". In a reference to the most talked about band at the time of the album's release, Suede and their sexually ambiguous frontman Brett Anderson, and including a pun on "Anarchy in the U.K.", the debut single by the Sex Pistols, the review concluded, "As warm as plasma and as eerie as ectoplasm, Orbital's (out-of-)body-music is the true sound of Androgyny-in-the-UK."[20] Vox observed that "this collection sees Paul and Phil Hartnoll drifting still further into the heart of the machine, touching upon the sometimes fragile soul of Techno", before declaring that "Orbital are still leading the field".[19]


This album is included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die alongside their 1994 LP Snivilisation.[21] Along with 1996's In Sides, it was also included in Q magazine's "90 Best Albums of the 1990s".[22] In 1996, Mixmag ranked the album at number nine in its list of the "50 Best Dance Albums of All Time".[23] In 1999, Ned Raggett ranked the album at number 21 on his list of "The Top 136 or So Albums of the Nineties".[24]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Time Becomes" – 1:43
  2. "Planet of the Shapes" – 9:36
  3. "Lush 3-1" – 5:39
  4. "Lush 3-2" – 4:40
  5. "Impact (The Earth Is Burning)" – 10:27
  6. "Remind" – 7:57
  7. "Walk Now..." – 6:48
  8. "Monday" – 7:05
  9. "Halcyon + On + On" – 9:28
  10. "Input Out" – 2:11

On cassette, "Planet of the Shapes" was re-titled "Planet of the Tapes" and placed as the first song on side two, before "Walk Now..." in the track listing; the track is identical.

The title "Planet of the Shapes" is also a reference to the 1968 film Planet of the Apes.

Use in other media[edit]

"Halcyon + On + On" and parts of "Lush 3-2" were used in the 1995 Mortal Kombat film soundtrack. The 1995 movie Hackers also used the track "Halcyon + On + On". The ending of the movie Mean Girls uses the song "Halcyon + On + On" in the final scene.


  1. ^ Stylus Staff (22 March 2004). "Top 101–200 Favourite Albums Ever". Stylus Magazine. Archived from the original on 16 February 2022. Retrieved 27 April 2023. Arguably it was Orbital, and this album in particular, that cemented the idea of a dance long-player as a cohesive artistic statement...
  2. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "the survival vocal in a minute is also from the same film. it was a french film dubbed into English which is why it was so clear." / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  3. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "If you know the film PLEASE let me know!" / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "It was some kind of conspiracy, alien plot" / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  5. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "We moved in after going on our first proper tour, supporting Meat beat Manifesto in the USA, what a trip! Id hardly left Kent at the point ." / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  6. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "thats a break beat we got from Jack Dangers of MBM" / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  7. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "Another MBM connection, this is an instrumental version of a remix we did for them . the original track was called mindstream. we basically did a re write but with the vocals on the remix, then re mixed the remix for our own album." / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  8. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "I think it has a little bit of influence from Fabio Paras I know your gonna like this react to rhythm remix. sort of prog trance. if you have to label things that is! its all house music to me!" / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  9. ^ "Walk Now - Sampled Aussie pedestrian crossing?". Gearslutz. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  10. ^ Bush, John. "Orbital 2 – Orbital". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  11. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th concise ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 978-0-85712-595-8.
  12. ^ Aaron, Charles (24 September 1993). "Orbital 2 (1993): Orbital". Entertainment Weekly. No. 189. ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  13. ^ a b Kessler, Ted (22 May 1993). "Orbital: Untitled". NME. p. 31.
  14. ^ a b King, Sam (July 1993). "Orbital: Orbital". Q. No. 82. p. 99.
  15. ^ Randall, Mac (2004). "Orbital". In Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian (eds.). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (4th ed.). Simon & Schuster. p. 607. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  16. ^ a b Harrison, Andrew (June 1993). "Orbital: Untitled". Select. p. 83.
  17. ^ Cinquemani, Sal (2 November 2002). "Orbital: Orbital 2". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  18. ^ Christgau, Robert (23 November 1993). "Turkey Shoot". The Village Voice. New York. Retrieved 5 July 2013.
  19. ^ a b Chong, Davydd (June 1993). "Orbital: (Untitled)". Vox. No. 33. London, England: IPC Media. p. 87.
  20. ^ Reynolds, Simon (22 May 1993). "Ever Increasing Circles". Melody Maker. p. 29.
  21. ^ Dimery, Robert; Lydon, Michael (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2.
  22. ^ "90 Best albums of the 1990s". Q. ISSN 0955-4955. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  23. ^ "Mixmag - Best dance albums of all time (1996)".
  24. ^ "The Top 136 or So Albums of the 90s". Archived from the original on 20 January 2000. Retrieved 28 September 2011.

External links[edit]