Orbital (1993 album)

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Orbital brown album.jpg
Studio album by Orbital
Released 24 May 1993
Genre Techno, ambient techno, acid house, trance
Length 65:44
Label Internal/FFRR
Producer Paul and Phil Hartnoll
Orbital chronology
Singles from Orbital
  1. "Halcyon (as lead track on the Radiccio EP)"
    Released: September 1992
  2. "Lush"
    Released: August 1993

Orbital is the second album from British electronica duo Orbital. In the United States the album had the title Orbital 2 on the spine of the album: in the rest of the world outside the US the album was released without a title, and it is commonly known as The Brown Album to differentiate it from Orbital's similarly untitled 1991 debut album, which had a green cover. It was released in May 1993 and reached the #28 on the UK album charts.


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 monickered 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 features the same speech sample (by actor Michael Dorn in Star Trek: The Next Generation - Time squared - Season 2 Ep. 13, Worf - 20’30 : « There is the theory of 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 second song on the album, "Planet of the Shapes", contains a sample from the movie, entitled Withnail & I, the sample is: "even a stopped clock gives the right time twice a day".

"Remind" is based on Orbital's previously-released "Mind the Bend the Mind" remix of "Mindstream" by Meat Beat Manifesto; it is effectively an instrumental version of that mix, with the last remaining elements of MBM's original track removed.

The brothers enjoy aural puns, and the use of the sample from Star Trek: The Next Generation (which appeared on the opening of their first album) was meant to infuriate listeners by making them believe for a few seconds that they had bought a mispressing. The muffled intro on "Planet of the Shapes" has the intentional addition of record static and crackles, followed by the sound of a needle skipping grooves then scratching across the record, also meant to infuriate fans, who bought the vinyl edition, by making them think their copy was less than mint.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[1]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars[2]
Entertainment Weekly A[3]
NME 9/10[4]
Q 4/5 stars[5]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[6]
Select 4/5[7]
The Village Voice C+[8]
Vox 8/10[9]

The album received widespread acclaim. In the UK NME hailed 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."[4] 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."[5] 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 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."[10] 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".[9]


This album is featured in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die[11] alongside their 1994 LP 'Snivilisation'. It (along with the In Sides album) was also included in Q magazine's "90 Best albums of the 1990s".[12] In 1996, Mixmag ranked the album at number 9 in its list of the "50 Best Dance Albums of All Time".[13] In 1999, Ned Raggett ranked the album at number 21 on his list of "The Top 136 or So Albums of the Nineties".[14]

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", but the track is identical.

Also on cassette, "Planet of the Shapes" is the first song on side 2, and is placed after "Remind" in the track listing.


  1. ^ Bush, John. "Orbital 2 – Orbital". AllMusic. Retrieved 22 May 2009. 
  2. ^ Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-857-12595-8. 
  3. ^ Aaron, Charles (24 September 1993). "Orbital 2 (1993): Orbital". Entertainment Weekly (Time) (#189). ISSN 1049-0434. Retrieved 22 May 2009. 
  4. ^ a b Kessler, Ted (22 May 1993). "Untitled". NME (London, England: IPC Media): 31. 
  5. ^ a b King, Sam (July 1993). "Orbital". Q (London, England: EMAP) (82): 99. 
  6. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-743-20169-8. 
  7. ^ Harrison, Andrew (June 1993). "Untitled". Select (EMAP). ISSN 0959-8367. Retrieved 22 May 2009. 
  8. ^ Christgau, Robert (23 November 1993). "Turkey Shoot". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Chong, Davydd (June 1993). "Untitled". Vox (London, England: IPC Media) (33): 87. 
  10. ^ Reynolds, Simon (22 May 1993). "Untitled". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media): 29. 
  11. ^ Robert Dimery; Michael Lydon (23 March 2010). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die: Revised and Updated Edition. Universe. ISBN 978-0-7893-2074-2. 
  12. ^ "90 Best albums of the 1990s". Q (Bauer Media). ISSN 0955-4955. Retrieved 18 October 2011. 
  13. ^ http://www.muzieklijstjes.nl/MixmagBestdance.htm
  14. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on January 20, 2000. Retrieved September 28, 2011. 

External links[edit]