Orbital – Optical Delusion: Album Review

Orbital deliver album number 10, born out of the pandemic. A slew of special guests add to the ever vibrant mix that Orbital always deliver.

Release Date: 17th February 2023

Label: Orbital Records / London Records

Format: CD / Vinyl / Digital

Orbital have been very busy since the pandemic. Their 30 (Something) release was a great success, choc full of great re-works and remixes of their songs. After breaks in their output due to hiatus, it is absolutely brilliant to have Orbital back and creating.

Optical Delusion is a great title for this album. It sums a little where we are as a nation and it helps enhance some of the political messages within the album. Politics is not something you’d perhaps associate with Orbital but as time goes by and maturity builds, it is hard not to speak up.

They go for the jugular on the album with Dirty Rat – featuring the ever abrasive Sleaford Mods. ‘You voted for ’em…look at yer…you dirty rat.’ Atop a thumping beat and hypnotic bassline, this one is sure to be an Orbital classic; up there with Satan and the like. A cacophony builds throughout the song which is, not for the only time on the album, utterly emphatic.

Orbital have always asked questions in their music (Are We Here?, Out There Somewhere? Where Is It Going? Doctor?) This time, they get to grips with Are You Alive? Vocally heavy, the song starts out in dreamy fashion with beats and synths laying the bed for Penelope Isles’ beautiful voice. Big beats bristle throughout Optical Delusion and the closing of Are You Alive? will be a huge hitter live. Huge beats and all consuming synths make for some classic euphoric sounds that will keep ravers of old very happy.

Penelope Isles and Sleaford mods are only two of many special guests on Optical Delusion. Dina Ipavic guests on Day One and Little Pest guests on the highly acidic Frequency. It will be doing loops around your mind with its twisted vocals and beats.

Mediæval Bæbes guest on a modern take on Ring a Ring o’ Roses (entitled Ringa Ringa (The Old Pandemic Folk Song)) and Anna B Savage gives vocal life to Home; a brilliant and pounding song which is more classic, highly danceable, Orbital. The piano intro to the latter is vast and beautiful.

Throughout Optical Delusion there are only two tracks that are purely Orbital. The New Abnormal is aptly titled for this album and dials up the classic Orbital tropes. Requiem For The Pre-Apocalypse sees the band move into drum and bass territory for a temporary diversion. It is frenetic, light and frayed and helps to mix up the sounds on the album.

What A Surprise brings back Little Pest into the guest seat before the downbeat closer of Moon Princess drafts in Coppé; The Legendary Godmother of Japanese Electronica. As a closer, it is truly brilliant. The downbeat nature of the song with the haunting lyrics draped over the music make for a truly enchanting end to a quite sublime album.

Monsters Exist, Orbital’s previous album, contained no guests. The diversity in Optical Delusion, due to the guests, make it a more instantly accessible and enjoyable album, musically. Orbital have been on/off for a while but right now; they are on…and firing. Optical Delusion is easily their best effort since the late nineties. This is one not to be missed.

Orbital hit the road in March and April in the UK. If you have never seen Orbital live, you have to experience it…a vital live act that always put on an amazing show.


Listen to Dirty Rat featuring Sleaford Mods below.

Orbital: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / YouTube

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