Reunited brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll drop new track ‘The End Is Nigh’ on Wednesday 29th August. It is taken from the forthcoming album ‘Monsters Exist,’ which is due for worldwide release on 14th September.
The accompanying video illustrates our subjective view of the world from doom mongering to a rose-tinted escape from reality.
Felix Green (director) explains: “For this music video I wanted to take the phrase "The End Is Nigh" and look at it as a timeless expression. Humanity has been predicting the end of civilisation since the beginning of civilisation. The solar eclipse of May 1st 1185, for example, was documented as being a message from God prophesying trouble. “The End is Nigh” is certainly making a comeback in today’s vernacular, mainly due to the seemingly imminent dangers we face from climate change and our reckless leaders (the Doomsday clock in 2018 currently sits at 2 minutes to midnight). Perhaps it’s because our generation have to face up to the realities of these unsavoury prospects that we try to see things in a positive light no matter how apocalyptic the circumstances. I can't help but see reasons to celebrate our existence and I tried to channel this into the video for this song.”
Paul Hartnoll adds: "It’s a fab slice of techno folk horror. The beautiful people are looking for meaning in nature but can it really be found? When they think they have it they run towards an idea with an unknowable conclusion, charging with gay abandon towards a drop that means certain doom. Can an ideal be pursued at any cost? The end is nigh for some who run towards the unknown ..."
‘Monsters Exist’ is a more classically structured Orbital album than their previous release ‘Wonky’, drawing inspiration from the international political landscape all the way back from Paul and Phil’s pre-rave squat-punk roots right up to the volatile tensions and erratic rhetoric of today.
“When you haven’t made an album in six years it just comes tumbling out,” says Paul. “Because of the global situation I was torn between writing a really aggressive Crass-type album that says ‘Fuck The Man!’ or going back to rave sensibilities. You know, let’s really rebel by stepping away and actually living that alternative lifestyle.” But the idea of ‘Monsters Exist’ tied it all together.
“You don’t need to spell out who the monsters are,” he says. “We’re not pointing our fingers at Donald Trump or Kim Jong-un. It’s clear who the monsters are. I’ve never liked preaching to people. It’s much better to provoke a bit of thought.”
Phil puts it more succinctly. “It’s a reflection on modern day monsters,” he says. “That can mean anything from bankers and The Man or your own demons and fears. The monsters inside you,” he says, evilly.
Among the tracks is a cosmic piece featuring an address for the possible end of the world by Prof. Brian Cox (“It’s Brian being emo,” says Paul. “Brian Emo”). There’s also an epic state-of-the-planet title track featuring “anguish, dread and News at Ten-style drama.”
When they’re in balance these leading figures of British dance music constitute their own self-regulating yin and yang. Analytical, detail-oriented Paul listens to everything from new electronica by Nathan Fake and Jon Hopkins to Beck and Belle & Sebastian. Born-again German techno fan Phil is hammering Bicep and the resurgent minimal sound of Berlin (he went to Berlin for the first time ever in 2017 “and I was like fucking hell, why haven’t I been here before?”). If time is a loop then Orbital have completed their own revolution to a new equilibrium.
“The master plan for this one,” says Paul, “was to make a bloody good album. And then see what happens.”
Orbital kicked off their groundbreaking live show at BBC Music’s Biggest Weekend in Belfast in May. Throughout 2018 they play a string of high-profile festival dates and headline shows across the UK and Europe featuring new material alongside classics like ‘Chime’, ‘Belfast’ and ‘Impact’. (see full live dates below)
Reconnecting with Orbital’s past, acclaimed avant-garde artist John Greenwood, who painted the famous bulbous and organic artwork for 1994’s ‘Snivilisation’ and 1996’s ‘In Sides’, will return to create the cover of ‘Monsters Exist’. Some 20 years after he first collaborated with Orbital, Greenwood’s shifting shapes and comical hybrid organisms – the Chapman Brothers meets Monsanto, or maybe Hieronymus Bosh-bosh-bosh – feel even more in sync with an era obsessed with its own genetic monsters. “We’ve always loved John’s work,” says Phil, “and it feels especially right for this record.”
This surge of creativity shows how the Hartnolls have rebuilt one of electronic music’s best-loved partnerships after Orbital’s surprisingly bitter break-up in 2012. Driven apart by music’s strange and infamous brother-vs-brother dynamic, Paul and Phil didn’t speak for five years after the ‘Wonky’ tour ended.
“When we fell out, I just couldn’t enjoy any of the amazing things we’d done over 25 years with Orbital,” says Phil. They’d been onstage with Stephen Hawking at the Paralympics, in front of the whole world. They’d remixed Madonna. They’d played Glastonbury many times and travelled the world. “And this silly row sort of poisoned it. How daft is that?”
Now the brothers have a pact. Whatever happens, Orbital does not stop. “We’ve learned to talk to each other rather than let things stew, and it’s much better,” says Phil. “We used to waste a lot of energy wondering what the other one was thinking and getting on each other’s nerves. But now we actually talk! And it’s brilliant.”
“It was silly really,” adds Paul. “We’re brothers and business partners and creative partners, so we were three times as likely to fall out. But in the end we had to remind ourselves that Orbital is something we’re really proud of and that we love doing it.”
It’s healthy, he thinks, to be reminded of how lucky you’ve been, of how you need each other, of how you’ve got to let each other play to their strengths. “If we were both the same,” says Paul, “then it wouldn’t be Orbital.”
“Battle ye not with monsters, said Friedrich Nietzche, “lest ye become a monster.” But there is more than one kind of monster and more than one kind of battle. There’s monsters of fear and tyranny, monsters of greed, and yes, the destructive monsters of sibling rivalry.
And in the other corner, fighting the good fight, are the monsters of the imagination… the monsters of rock… and the monsters of rave.