"The Box" (Single, 1996)
This tension-filled and doom-laden instrumental epic from the Orbital lads was deserving of its high chart position and wide airplay as, to this very day, in my opinion it remains the pinnacle of their output. The video with a jerky Tilda Swinton walking around the streets of a time-lapsed London is a memorable visual reminder of this terrific track. Beginning with an innocent enough metallic piano, heartbeat bass drum, brushed snare and chimes, within thirty seconds it launches into a tumbling and pumping anthem where horrendously distorted guitar noises snatch the initiative from the piano and tubular bell chimes struggling in vain to anchor the piece in some semblance of sanity.
The remixed second track has perhaps even more dread about it than the original version. It starts with a series of creaking wood noises that remind one of Coil's 'unreleased' soundtrack for Clive Barker's Hellraiser before entering into a a trip hop percussion loop and increasingly tense and repetitive piano. Just when you think it's about to explode, a harpsichord-like keyboard soars in, releasing the tension and carrying the track into a whole new direction. This runs into track three and its clutter of ticking clocks, bass drone and the familiar tubular bell refrain that loops for two-and-a-half minutes before jumping into a funky drum kick and warping synths.
The final track follows the lead of the original but adds surprisingly successful and haunting vocals - first an ethereal female and then male - the lyrics (perhaps) providing an explanation for the title. The Box, it seems, could be the television set (or is it the house on the cover?) and Grant Fulton's entirely appropriate voice delivers a lament, in part, for the demise of quality broadcasting! Staggeringly, far from sounding daft, when he sings "trading satellites for substance, let spectators pay their way" there is something totally compelling about it all. It builds with the female vocals adding ever-increasing support in a fine way to finish off this ingenious investigation into mid 90s urban paranoia. 8/10
Official Orbital website: http://www.loopz.co.uk