In the five years since the last Echaskech album, the Hartnoll brothers brought the legendary Orbital name out of semi-retirement to release Wonky in 2012, arguably their best album since 1999’s Middle of Nowhere. But where does that leave the number one seeded challengers to the ambient techno crown?
The answer is Origin, the first album by Dom Hoare and Andy Gillham since Shatterproof in 2009. Again returning to Just Music, Origin sees the duo demonstrating a newfound maturity. The dark drama that was on Shatterproof (“Future Sex”) and the nostalgic humor from their 2007 debut Sketchbook (“Unsynchronised Swimming”) have been toned down, as the duo focused on purely uplifting soundscapes. Without vocals to bear meaning, the emphasis is now on their incorporation of live percussion, analog synths and organic instrumentation (piano, acoustic guitar) into their sound, the center of which remains their keen digital sound design skills. Somewhere between a Jon Hopkins and Lusine album, yet unmistakably from their own perspective, Origin may sound minimal on a cursory listen, warmly hugging background listeners like fog after a summer rain, but intense scrutiny reveals deep layers of melody and timbre that invite not only comparison to, but placement among the masters. It’s an album to drift away to, if the currents don’t sweep you away first.