Orbital – Snivilisation (1994): Review


Produced by Paul & Phil Hartnoll
Label – FFRR

For Paul and Phil Hartnoll (aka Orbital) the sample had replaced the pen, and in their minds it was far mightier than the sword. For their third album the pair embarked on creating a dance music that took in social comment and fear of imminent nuclear meltdown for the ravers to ponder. Oddly, Cold War paranoia had already subsided, but the brothers still felt a sense of mistrust, particularly with the Conservative government’s nanny state oppression which stemmed from the recently introduced Criminal Justice Act. The potential for law enforcement on their very own platform for expression (i.e. rave culture) would serve as the inspirational back beat for “Snivilisation”.

The exhaustive “Are We Here?” for example darkly amplifies the foreboding doom as drum ‘n’ bass rhythms hang over cut and paste samples of the oft spoken word refrain “Are we here?” and “What does God say?”. Frankly, it answers no questions, lacks any refreshing melody and even Alison Goldfrapp’s celestial shimmer can’t save the impression that this is 15 minutes we’ll never get back. And that’s the crux of it really. Since the rise of the CD as the leading selling format some years before, many acts felt it necessary to fill every single second of the 75 minutes available to them on disc, disregarding the fact that some of the material may not be up to standard. The Hartnolls could have easily achieved their aims and provided the listener with a more memorable collection had they spread the 10 tracks over 45 – 50 minutes as opposed to 75. In addition the repetitive use of these samples eventually becomes tiresome and leads one to lose sight of any moral message the pair are attempting to portray. Goldfrapp appears again on “Sad But True”, as her semi Middle Eastern vocal plays out over slow tribal rhythms and industrial synth embellishments.


The highlight of the album is the opener “Forever”; a gentle multi layered synth instrumental with subtle rhythms that enable the melody to flow beautifully, and the Graham Crowdon monologue from the 1982 film Britannia Hospital serves as an interesting atonal intervention. Also enjoyable are the more urgent, “Crash And Carry” which is driven by some deliciously energetic rhythms, and the piano led “Kein Trink Wasser” which slowly moulds into a creatively astute homage to Kraftwerk.

“Snivilisation” contains pent up passion, aggressive swipes at deluded civilization all diluted by a lack of decent songs and a legacy and longevity that’s ruined by the unnecessary length of the record.


Track Rating
1 – Forever – 8
2 – I Wish I Had Duck Feet – 6
3 – Sad But True – 6
4 – Crash And Carry – 7
5 – Science Friction – 6
6 – Philosophy By Numbers – 5
7 – Kein Trink Wasser – 7
8 – Quality Seconds – 6
9 – Are We Here? – 5
10 – Attached – 6

Are We Here?

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