Before the Chemical Brothers and Underworld funked up big beats, the head comedown dance groovers were this brotherly duo of Phil and Paul Hartnoll, a/k/a Orbital. Known to many from the creepy start-stop puppet video for "The Box" that graced MTVís airwaves in the mid í90s, the pair had begun revolutionizing UK dance culture years before with their amped-up rave anthems and paranoid chill-outs. Works, a comprehensive retrospective collection, captures their forward-thinking sensibilities.
Unlike many of the tinny house favorites from the beginning of the í90s, Orbitalís earliest work has aged well. The drip-drops of rain-like beats on "Belfast," from their 1991 homonymous US debut, portend the glitchy stutters of contemporary electonica; "Are We Here?", from 1994ís Snivilisation, marries drum íní bass beats to Kraftwerkian synth bleeps; and the eerie "Halcyon" is haunted by ghostly layers of "la-la" vocals and spacy keyboards. The only real drawbacks are a metallicized collaboration with Metallicaís Kirk Hammett ("Satan Spawn") and an equally awkward collaboration with singer-songwriter David Gray ("Illuminate"). But the new song, "Frenetic," simmers like an electronic tango with rippling female vocals and overlapping beats; it easily stands up to the duoís best work.