In Sides

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In Sides
Studio album by
Released29 April 1996
Recorded1995–1996 at The Strongroom, London
ProducerPaul and Phil Hartnoll
Orbital chronology
In Sides
The Middle of Nowhere
Singles from In Sides
  1. "The Box"
    Released: 15 April 1996

In Sides is the fourth album by British electronic group Orbital, released in the UK on Internal on 29 April 1996.[1][2] The album's title is a reference to the fact that the original vinyl LP release of the album was as a 3-LP vinyl box set, with one track per side of each disc.[3] In Sides saw the band continue the process, begun on their previous album Snivilisation, of moving away from making music for the rave scene towards more intricately crafted melodies and reflective, downtempo tracks. Gathering widespread acclaim not just from dance music magazines but also the UK's more traditional rock music papers such as NME and Melody Maker, the album is considered by many reviewers and fans to be among Orbital's best work.

The album spent 12 weeks in the UK charts in 1996, and reached a high of No. 5 in the week of its release.[4]


The album was recorded at Orbital's rented studio space at The Strongroom in central London. It was mostly programmed and recorded on Apple Mac computers using Logic Audio software and an E-mu Emax 2 E64 sampler. Various analogue synthesizers were also used to create the album, such as the ARP 2600, Roland SH-101, Oberheim Xpander and Roland Jupiter-6. A Roland TR-808 drum machine was used, but many tracks sampled the Hartnolls' friend Clune drumming live instead: Phil Hartnoll told Music Week, "We recorded him with about 15 mics [microphones] playing along to click tracks and doing things on his own".[1]

The vocals on three of the album's tracks are credited to "Auntie", a pseudonym used by long-time collaborator Alison Goldfrapp on this release.[5] Her singing on "Dŵr Budr" is nonsensical chanting, and has been rumoured to have been played backwards, which the band finally confirmed in 2020.[6]


Several versions of the album have been released. The original UK vinyl LP release in April 1996 consisted of six tracks, one track on each side of a 3-LP set. For the CD version the tracks "The Box" and "Out There Somewhere?" were each split into two parts, creating eight tracks. In the US the first 30,000 copies of the album came packaged with a second bonus disc which included the four tracks from the 1995 Times Fly EP and the four versions of "The Box" from the single merged as a single 28-minute track – none of the five tracks had been available in the US up to that point.

In May 1997 the album was re-released in the UK with the then-current single "The Saint" added on to the end of the CD album. The vinyl re-release was a 4-LP box set, featuring the three LPs of the original release and a fourth LP with "The Saint" on one side and its B-side "The Sinner" on the other. The US version of the re-released album contained a different bonus CD to the 1996 version, featuring both tracks of "The Saint" single along with live recordings of "Halcyon" and "Satan" (previously found on Orbital's III EP and the Satan Live EP respectively).

Musical composition and themes[edit]

The album was preceded by a single, "The Box", starring the actress Tilda Swinton in the single's video. Paul Hartnoll told the NME that the song was based on a recurring dream he had about the discovery of a mysterious wooden box in the Welsh countryside, but that he would always wake up just at the point he was opening the box, so he never found out what was inside it.[7]

Environmental concerns are one of the major themes of the album: "Dŵr Budr", Welsh for "dirty water", was inspired by the Sea Empress oil spill environmental disaster which took place just off the southern coast of Wales in February 1996.[8] Paul Hartnoll told Vox, "We came up with the chords that start the track, and I thought: 'That sounds nice, it sounds like the sea'. And it reminded me of staring at the murky water in Brighton from one of the sea-breakers, thinking, 'Uh! God!' So I thought: 'Let's make this track about the horrible dirty water that everybody has to swim in.'"[9] The song was written and recorded in a single day before the album's scheduled mastering.[10]

An early version of the album's opening track "The Girl with the Sun in Her Head" was recorded for the Hackers film soundtrack, but was not included in the film.[11] The final piece was entirely recorded using electricity provided by Greenpeace's mobile solar power generator, Cyrus.[9] It is dedicated to the memory of Volume magazine photographer Sally Harding, a friend of the Hartnolls, who died in December 1995.[12] It opens with an emulated heartbeat sound created with an ARP 2600,[13] which serves as bass and develops into what many critics hold as one of Orbital's most accomplished pieces.[4]

"P.E.T.R.O.L." was written and recorded for the video game Wipeout[14] (and included on its later soundtrack album); it is also featured on the soundtrack to the film π. "Adnan's" is a longer version of the track originally included on 1995's charity album The Help Album, benefitting War Child.[4] Paul Hartnoll said that "the name comes from the sympathy story of the day on the news about a family evacuated from the former Yugoslavia. The father had to stay behind to work, and his 16-year-old son decided he had to go back and stay with him. He felt he couldn't leave him on his own. After a few days the son, Adnan, got blown up and killed."[9]

The two-part closing track "Out There Somewhere?" deals with another of the Hartnolls' preoccupations, science fiction and extraterrestrials. Paul said, "I was looking for samples from this TV programme about the way people react to UFOs. It's not about UFOs, it's about that spiritual gap being filled by the aliens coming down to save us... Then the second half is the euphoria of what the person wants to feel when they've been abducted."[9]


The album's cover art is by John Greenwood, who is also responsible for creating the covers of previous Orbital releases. The collage for the internal artwork was created by Foul End Trauma, an anagrammatical alias for the design artists Fultano Mauder. The design group also contribute lyrics to the vocal version of "The Box" on the single's release, with one half of the group, Grant Fulton, providing vocals.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[15]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[16]
The Guardian4/5 stars[17]
Los Angeles Times3/4 stars[18]
Q4/5 stars[21]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[22]

The album was positively received by critics. The leading UK dance music magazines Mixmag and Muzik were enthusiastic, with Mixmag saying that "Orbital are still light-years ahead of the competition"[24] while Muzik said that "billed as six unrelated 'sound scenarios', In Sides neatly illustrates why Orbital remain light years ahead of the competition. While much of the album is set on a dial marked 'home listening', it is still some way in front of the soporific easy-listening muzak of much of today's ambient fare. At times, it startles with its raw simplicity, while at others it impresses with its sheer complexity. But in the end, what it comes down to is that only Orbital could mix 'n' match the simple and the complex and turn out something this good. After all these years, they're still ahead of the pack. Way ahead."[19]

The more guitar-orientated rock magazines were equally impressed. NME said that "after the undeniable but heavy-handed gravitas of Snivilisation, In Sides feels like an emphatic retreat into the personal domain. Despite its many shifts in temper, the prevailing demeanour is one of sensitivity to the eddies of life's swollen stream... In Sides is the best of Orbital thus far. It refines their previous tricks further taking them into the realm of what now feels dangerously close to perfection, while also standing tall and utterly distinct from both its contemporaries and historic predecessors."[20] David Bennun of Melody Maker called In Sides "a very approachable record" and awarded it a "recommended" star rating. He noted that the album was not as intense as its predecessors and said, "It strikes me as simply a sweet experience, an infusion of mild pleasure to the body and brain. Maybe the Hartnolls needed a rest from all that rage and anomie. Maybe I should just call it the first beautiful album of the summer."[25] Q wrote that "on this, their fourth album, Orbital explore six unrelated sound scenarios, from the veiled, shimmering passion of "The Box", with its layer upon layer of chimes, to the rich orchestral moods of "Out There Somewhere", a 24-minute track underpinned by a firm, focussed beat. More anchored and evocative than the preceding Snivilisation, In Sides is not just about intelligent abstraction and a wicked tempo."[21] Vox said that "Orbital are maturing and expanding without losing the plot. There's a newly mellow mood to these grandiose electronic vistas, but the brothers are stopping to admire the view rather than rest their aching bones. They no longer make dance music for people who don't dance, but they are making soundtracks for movies which don't exist... Some might feel it lacks the coherent overall feel and irreverent, idea-stuffed urgency which made Snivilisation such a milestone. But at their inspired best, as they are for a good three-quarters of In Sides, Orbital transport you to a glistening sensurround universe unlike anything else in pop."[23] Select said "the word [techno] already seems too small to encompass what this band is about... On the evidence of In Sides, it's easy to see them going on to make music every bit as moving and lastingly satisfying as the dance records that got them started, and as emblematic of their time as the punk records they listened to before that".[3]


By late May 1996, over 60,000 copies of the album had been sold.[4] The album was certified gold by the BPI in January 1997 for sales of 100,000 copies in the UK.[26] As of 2004, the album had sold 158,000 copies in United States.[27]

Publication Country Albums of the Year 1996 Rank
Melody Maker United Kingdom "Albums of the Year"[28] 31
Mixmag United Kingdom "Best of 1996"[29] 3
Muzik United Kingdom "Albums of the Year"[30] 16
NME United Kingdom "1996 NME Albums"[31] 3

The single "The Box" also made NME's list of the best singles of 1996, coming in at number five.[32]

In Sides was also included in Q magazine's "90 Best albums of the 1990s".[33]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Paul and Phil Hartnoll, except where noted.

1."The Girl with the Sun in Her Head"10:26
3."The Box (Part 1)"6:28
4."The Box (Part 2)"6:00
5."Dŵr Budr" (Welsh for "Dirty Water")9:55
7."Out There Somewhere? (Part 1)"10:42
8."Out There Somewhere? (Part 2)"13:26
  • On vinyl, "The Box" and "Out There Somewhere" are not separated into parts.
1997 UK & Europe re-release
9."The Saint" (Edwin Astley)4:30

1996 US bonus disc[edit]

1."Times Fly (Slow)"7:58
2."Sad But New"7:29
3."Times Fly (Fast)"7:53
4."The Tranquilizer"6:27
5."The Box (full version)" (Hartnoll, Hartnoll, Grant Fulton, Peter Mauder)28:11

1997 US bonus disc[edit]

1."Satan (Industry Standard)"3:42
2."Satan (Live at NYC Irving Plaza)"7:09
3."The Saint" (Edwin Astley)4:30
4."The Sinner"10:41
5."Halcyon (Live at NYC Irving Plaza)"8:43

Additional personnel[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Orbital: Moving into the Mainstream". Music Week. London, England: United Business Media. 20 April 1996. p. 21.
  2. ^ "Orbital on Tour". Muzik (11). London, England: IPC Media. April 1996. p. 13.
  3. ^ a b c Muirhead, Stuart (June 1996). "Hartnolls' Messiah". Select. No. 72. pp. 88–89. Archived from the original on 20 February 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d Pride, Dominic (25 May 1996). "Internal's Orbital Takes Ambient Techno From Studio To Stage". Billboard. pp. 9, 96.
  5. ^ Auntie discography at Discogs
  6. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "the vocals are from a session we did that didn't work out so in my frantic search to make a track i grabbed then and pitched them about , reversed them and here you go." / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  7. ^ Kessler, Ted (20 April 1996). "Carton: The Unstoppable FX Machine". NME. London, England: IPC Media. pp. 32–34.
  8. ^ "What?". FAQ. 19 January 2000. What is the story behind "Dwr Budr"?. Archived from the original on 11 March 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  9. ^ a b c d Mulvey, John (June 1996). "Live and Let Vibe". Vox. London, England: IPC Media. pp. 36–39.
  10. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "Another quick one ! The day before mastering the album I felt it just wasn't complete some how so set about filling the gap. wrote this and recorded it the day before the cut! #TimsTwitterListeningParty" / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  11. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "This is a bitter sweet track for me , it started life as an idea for a scene in the film Hackers but it didn't make the cut . While we were working on the track one of my best friends died aged 27 , Sally Harding also from the Sevenoaks area , so it became a tribute to her." / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Tribute to Sally Harding". Miscellaneous. Archived from the original on 15 February 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  13. ^ "Orbital on Twitter: "the wump and kick come from the Arp 2600 that we'd just got at the time." / Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Wipeout". Maximum: The Video Game Magazine. Emap International Limited (1): 6–19. October 1995.
  15. ^ Bush, John. "In Sides – Orbital". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  16. ^ Wiederhorn, Jon (21 June 1996). "In Sides". Entertainment Weekly. No. 332. ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  17. ^ Bennun, David (3 May 1996). "CD of the week: Orbital". The Guardian.
  18. ^ Romero, Dennis (15 June 1996). "Orbital, 'In Sides,' FFRR". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  19. ^ a b Wyatt, Kieran (June 1996). "Orbital: In Sides". Muzik. No. 13. p. 116.
  20. ^ a b Cameron, Keith (27 April 1996). "Orbital – In Sides". NME. p. 50. Archived from the original on 17 August 2000. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  21. ^ a b O'Brien, Lucy (June 1996). "Orbital: In Sides". Q. No. 117. p. 119.
  22. ^ Galtney, Smith (8 August 1996). "Orbital: In Sides". Rolling Stone. No. 740. ISSN 0035-791X. Archived from the original on 5 December 2006. Retrieved 13 April 2020.
  23. ^ a b Dalton, Stephen (June 1996). "Orbital: In Sides". Vox. No. 68. p. 88.
  24. ^ Petridis, Alexis (May 1996). "Orbital: In Sides". Mixmag. Vol. 2 no. 60. Archived from the original on 17 February 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2012.
  25. ^ Bennun, David (27 April 1996). "Orbital: In Sides". Melody Maker. p. 71.
  26. ^ BPI searchable database
  27. ^ Paoletta, Michael (21 August 2004). "Dance Acts Go Beyond The Dancefloor" (PDF). Billboard. p. 31. Retrieved 13 September 2020 – via World Radio History.
  28. ^ "Albums of the Year". Melody Maker. 1996. ISSN 0025-9012. Retrieved 21 May 2009.
  29. ^ "Best of 1996". Mixmag. ISSN 0957-6622. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  30. ^ "Albums of the Year". Muzik. No. 20. January 1997. p. 65.
  31. ^ "1996 Albums". NME. ISSN 0028-6362. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  32. ^ "Best Singles of 1996". NME. ISSN 0028-6362. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  33. ^ "90 Best albums of the 1990s". Q. ISSN 0955-4955. Retrieved 18 October 2011.

External links[edit]