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Posts posted by NewSchoolScience

  1. 5 hours ago, LC1 said:

    Having finally listened to all of the available tracks including the instrumental versions enough times to form an opinion, here's my track-by-track take on the new album:


    1. Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)

    Like others here, I was a bit underwhelmed by "Ringa Ringa" at first, not because of the nursery rhyme vocal, but because there is too little variation in the music and it's basically a take on the main synth riff from "Please" together with the beat that "Wonky" kicks in with. It just sounded a bit uninspired at first, but I've come to appreciate it as an album opener and it fits the pandemic theme of lots of the other tracks.

    It also sounds refreshingly like from the early 90s with the synth stabs á la Opus III's "It's A Fine Day". It's nice to have the instrumental, but I think this works best with the vocal.




    2. Day One

    I’m relieved that this isn’t a retitled “One Day”, which Paul introduced a few years ago in the occasional live set and was a major disappointment due to its generic and grating diva vocal samples. In contrast, I don't mind the vocals from Dina Ipavic on "Day One" and (to a lesser degree) "The Crane" as they really suit the music and are more used like another instrument. On “Day One”, her contribution definitely feels a bit like the vocal on “Belfast”.

    Actually, “Day One” is one of my favourite tracks here: the rhythm harks back to "Sunday" and the last third is breathtaking with the bass similar to "Vision OnE" and the synth to "Where Is It Going?"



    3. Are You Alive?

    "Are You Alive?" is sublime! Definitely my favourite single and track from the album. I had heard the snippet from last summer's BBC DJ mix and was already looking forward to the full version. The instrumental is absolutely marvellous on its own as an alternative listening option, but I also love the vocals from Penelope Isles' Lily Wolter. They remind me of Pixx in places. She's featured on several of last year's Royksopp albums, but her debut The Age of Anxiety was my favourite album of 2017 and the follow-up Small Mercies (with occasional forays into post-punk and alternative in addition to the weird synth pop) is very good as well. I would love her to collaborate with Orbital, but this almost sounds like I would imagine it to anyway, so I'm very pleased.

    The French "Oygène" version offers a nice variation as well, but I prefer Lily Wolter's vocals and the original second half of the backing track, which is pure bliss.



    4. You Are The Frequency

    The Little Pest is certainly an apt moniker for Phil's alter ego on his first offering here. The grating vocals make it sound like a novelty record, which is a shame as the parts of the backing track that I can hear underneath sound really good. Thankfully, "You Are The Frequency" sounds a lot less abrasive as an instrumental and works quite well. It even has a callback to "Tiny Foldable Cities" with the familiar melody quietly playing in the background at 0:20 like an echo from the Monsters Exist track.

    3.5/5 (instrumental), 2.5/5 (with vocals)


    5. The New Abnormal

    "The New Abnormal" was an instant favourite, which isn't a surprise as it's their latest take on the classic "Impact" riff vibe. Since that is my all-time favourite Orbital track, I can't complain and everything flows together wonderfully and sounds like vintage Orbital. The big beats coming in midway remind me of The Chemical Brothers.



    6. Home

    Even though I find Anna B Savage's vocals on "Home" a bit too theatrical and the chorus grates on me, I have to admit that the instrumental is slightly repetitive and long without them. That said, after "Fun With The System" from Monsters Exist, this is another track with some nods to classic Leftfield, and it sounds good. However, I think the "Hottest Day On Record Mix" is a good compromise. It sounds more interesting musically (with a more aggressive Prodigy vibe) and it doesn't overstay its welcome. Also, it thankfully loses the bit with the irritating mispronunciation of "skeletal".

    4/5 (instrumental, Hottest Day On Record Mix), 3/5 (album version with vocals)


    7. Dirty Rat

    I thought "Dirty Rat" would be a more enjoyable listen without vocals (not too keen on the Sleaford Mods vocal style in the verses, though I do like the chorus), but something vital is missing in the instrumental without them. And I really love the vocoder bits, maybe that's the main reason the instrumental alone doesn't work as well. This is really a protest song in the vein of "Choice", where the rap doesn't scan too well either and is meant to be obtrusive.



    8. Requiem For The Pre-Apocalypse

    This brings back breakbeats similar to "Are We Here?" but sounds even more like a mixture of "P.E.T.R.O.L." and "Dwr Budr", which should please all the In Sides fans. It's also my favourite album (together with Brown), but I prefer the other four tracks on there as they're richer in melody. That said, they both have more atmosphere than "Requiem", which hasn't really grabbed me yet although it sounds great. Nevertheless, a solid track.



    9. What A Surprise

    As with the first Phil track, "What A Surprise" sounds too messy and abrasive with too many vocal samples, and is much more enjoyable in its instrumental form. It doesn’t sound as “huggy” (to quote Paul’s description of the majority of his tracks) as something like “Are You Alive?”, but instead expands on the more sinister atmosphere introduced by parts of the previous track, which gives it more of a Snivilisation vibe (even though the music is totally different).

    4/5 (instrumental), 3/5 (with vocals)


    10. Moon Princess

    While I find the instrumentals of Phil's tracks superior in general, the one for "Moon Princess" is the exception to this rule: unfortunately it still has the annoying vocal sample that serves as part of the rhythm. I feel that's even more grating in isolation than as (occasionally buried) part of the vocal version. So I actually prefer it with the Coppé vocals even though the whole thing sounds too messy and is still my least favourite track on the album by far.

    3/5 (with vocals), 1.5/5 (instrumental)


    11. The Crane

    I was a bit unimpressed hearing this track when it was still called "Treadmill", but it's grown on me. It's very melancholy and atmospheric but uplifting at the same time, mainly because of the bassline. Dina Ipavic sounds quite oriental here, which reminds me of Ofra Haza, and adds some mystery to the track. However, I think I slightly prefer the instrumenal version.

    4.5/5 (instrumental), 4/5 (with vocals)


    12. Year Of The Bat

    I really like the pulsing "Year Of The Bat", which sounds like Orbital doing a more symphonic version of something like Underworld's "Rowla" or "Kittens", basically a cross between Paul’s “Risky” and “Nearly There”. An atmospheric banger in the vein of underrated B-side "Mock Tudor".



    13. Lost In Time

    While the main three Phil contributions are not great, I was surprised to find that I really love his "Lost In Time", which sounds a lot like Kraftwerk and early OMD. Even the vocal sample fits well this time, but it's a bit repetitive near the end, so I again prefer the instrumental. If I hadn’t known, I would have actually thought this track was Paul’s. The ticking clock also links it to "The Box" EP and ironically Paul's 8:58 theme. "Lost In Time" is my favourite Phil track here by far and even one of my top 5 tracks.



    All in all, I'm very satisfied with Optical Delusion. Even though there is nothing on it that's up there with "Vision OnE" and "Dressing Up In Other People’s Clothes" in my opinion, overall it's not as hit and miss as Monsters Exist (at least compared to the 9-track main album). The whole album has so many callbacks to sounds, beats and tunes from previous Orbital eras that one can't help but smile when listening to it.

    The three bonus tracks exclusive to Amazon UK and Blu-ray really are too good to leave off the main album (especially "Year Of The Bat" and "Lost In Time", which also work perfectly as album closers) compared to some of the other tracks. It's like the "Dressing Up In Other People's Clothes" situation again.


    I was very surprised to see four contributions from Phil, though in my heart it's the signature Orbital sound from most of Paul's compositions that I crave most. I'm still struggling a bit with Phil's three main offerings, not because they are more experimental, but because they sound too messy and chaotic to me with all the vocals. That said, at least two of them are vastly improved as instrumental versions. Also, there's one callback to "Tiny Foldable Cities" on "You Are The Frequency".

    While it's nice that Phil has a bit more input than previously, his main three offerings are not as good as the rest of the album. As a 10-track version, it would be much better with the three bonus tracks instead (including his own "Lost In Time").

    You're right that the Phil tracks are mastered louder. The difference was even more jarring on the 3rd Monsters Exist disc with the quieter master of "Copenhagen". I also noticed that Phil co-wrote most of the tracks with Jimmy/James Day who also collaborated with him on Long Range.


    I've now made my personal tracklist with 5 instrumentals (besides the 3 instrumental-only tracks) and 5 vocal versions plus two alternative vocal versions:

    1. Ring Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)

    2. Day One

    3. Are You Alive?

    4. You Are The Frequency (instrumental)

    5. The New Abnormal

    6. Home (instrumental - getting some Leftfield vibes here)

    7. Dirty Rat

    8. Requiem For The Pre-Apocalypse

    9. What A Surprise (instrumental)

    10. Moon Princess

    11. The Crane (instrumental)

    12. Year Of The Bat

    13. Lost In Time (instrumental)

    14. Home (Hottest Day On Record Mix)

    15. Oxygène (Extended Version)


    Hi Paul, how's Phil doing these days?


    • Haha 1
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  2. On 3/8/2023 at 3:01 PM, beerwolf said:

    Changed mine to facepalm so you have the full house :facepalm:

    This is something I would like to achieve before I die :ok:

    Let me give you a facepalm back to start your emoji bingo collection 😂 

    • Farnsworth 1
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