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Patchwork Guilt by Paul Hartnoll

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Reviewed on 11th December 2006.


Patchwork Guilt

By Paul Hartnoll

For the uninitiated amongst you, Paul Hartnoll was one half of the omnipotent Orbital, and dominated the early 90's world of (popular) techno/electronica alongside his brother Phil. At their peak, they produced some mind-blowingly good (if now a little dated) records - 'Orbital 2' and 'Insides' spring to mind. Alas, they also produced some crap in their time, but they also managed to be the only one of the successful 'dance crossover' acts of the time (a group to include The Chemical Brothers, Prodigy and Underworld) to maintain a real sense of integrity and dignity until the mid 90's, when it all began to fall apart. And fall apart it finally did, when they called it a day in 2006.

And so now it seems that Paul has decided to branch out on his own. Before I got the CD, I was expecting either one of two options: a mediocre but fun re-run of the tried and tested Orbital form (bleepy arpeggio synths, swirling ambient pads, sampled breathy female vocals, 4/4 heart...) or something new and shiny that would be better than my old favourites could ever have hoped for. Of course I was doomed. It was neither.

Paul Hartnoll seems to have changed his job. No longer techno innovator turned elder statesman, he's now decided to take up life as a computer music programmer. Bear with me on this if you've never had the geek-esque inclinations to waste hours of your life on a wee little programme that will take hold of your dreams of being (ahem) Moby and make them fly, but these things always include a set of demo 'songs' to show off the programmer's musical prowess. Unsurprisingly, these are guaranteed to be soulless parodies of once loved acid-house and techno classics. In essence, a mockery of what Orbital and company once held dear. Mr. Hartnoll's efforts here are undistinguishable from his software imprisoned imitators. 'Patchwork Guilt' is passable enough and may well bring an old fan to reminisce: the track bears enough resemblance to elements of 'Insides' for fans to be able to look back fondly and remember when the Hartnoll brothers pulled off truly danceable melancholy electronica with so much more finesse. 'Gloopy' however fails to pull on the heart strings, and brings back far less pleasant memories of Orbital's dying days - synthesised guitar sounds, what sounds like someone smacking a huge plastic drainpipe and disastrously dated vocals laced together in the same old 'build up' structure belie an obvious loss of inspiration.

It's a shame that I've been unable to discuss Paul's new record without mentioning the weight of Orbital's name that will forever follow him. Unfortunately, his inability to let go of the now tired formula means that this name is the only thing that anyone will sit up and take notice of. This makes me just a little sad.



All replies to this article. Log in to post a reply.

On 12th December 2006 at 09:24 Anonymous 13 wrote...

What a well-written, well-informed and engaging review. It sets a standard that everyone should aim at.

Good work Paul.


On 12th December 2006 at 18:42 Dave LMS wrote...

I agree, I enjoyed reading this.



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