Paul Hartnoll :: The Ideal Condition (ACP, CD)

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(06.27.07) Phil and Paul Hartnoll have both been working on their solo projects ever since their split as the legendary Orbital back in 2004. It’s been fascinating to hear their solo work as in many ways it reveals which parts of all those Orbital tracks stemmed from which brother. What The Ideal Condition shows and extends upon is Paul’s penchant for the cinematic, for innovative collaboration and his classical influences. A full orchestra and a thirty-two piece choir have been employed in the making of this album and are a prominent feature on almost every track.

The stage is set by the albums biggest number “Haven’t We Met Before?,” which sees a simple woodwind and piano led melody joined by progressively building orchestration and soaring vocal ‘aahs.’ Beats, clicks and pops soon join this unnervingly familiar sounding throng that rolls to a dramatic climax. “The Unsteady Waltz” is exactly that, with more piano led orchestration, this time with virtually no perceptible electronic influence whatsoever, whilst “Dust Motes” is The Ideal Condition‘s cinematic piece, another melancholic blend of precise orchestral arrangements and choral vocals that builds to a final crescendo before fading to a quite electronic humming. There’s also the amusing “Simple Sounds,” an apt title for an instrumental electronic ditty built around a central melody played on what sounds like a recorder.

There are a number of pop songs on the album too, the most notable being the single “Please” featuring the vocal talents of the The Cure’s Robert Smith. There are a number of remixes of this track that are arguably superior (and considerably more emo) but it is, nevertheless an extremely catchy blend of Blue Album era Orbital electronics and electro-pop. “Nothing Else Matters” blends all the disparate elements of The Ideal Condition together most effectively sporting the soft, oddly nasal yet charming vocals of Akayzia Parker with exquisite orchestral and choral flair and rolling rhythms, yet the clockwork “For Silence” with it’s Sinead O’Connor-esque vocal lead fails to fully ignite the imagination.

“Patchwork Guilt” which was also released as a vinyl and digital only single (along with extra track “Gloopy”) is the most identifiably Orbital piece on The Ideal Condition, if only because it consists solely of Paul Hartnoll’s electronics. Soft synth washes and high-pitched, curdled sci-fi squeals pitch and roll above gurgling, pitch-shifting basslines as an almost vibraphone-like melody guides the piece.

You can hear that Paul Hartnoll has really enjoyed making this album The Ideal Condition: it combines variety and intelligence together with a traditional, almost old-fashioned approach to acoustic and orchestral instrumentation that is bizarrely refreshing and unusual, making for a fascinating, highly distinctive and personal experience.

The Ideal Condition is out now on ACP. [Purchase]

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  • Paul Hartnoll
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