It’s been quite the past twelve months for Phil and Paul Hartnoll, aka ambient electronica pioneers Orbital. After an eight-year absence, they released their eighth studio album, Wonky, to critical acclaim. They provided the most powerful moment of the London 2012 Paralympics Opening ceremony when they performed a cover of Ian Dury’s “Spasticus Autisticus” behind Professor Steven Hawking. And now, they’ve been given the responsibility of scoring the eagerly awaited British adaptation of the 1996 cult classic, Pusher.
Having already produced entire soundtracks for 1997’s Event Horizon and 2003’s Octane, and reworked the iconic theme tune for Val Kilmer’s The Saint, the pair are certainly no strangers to such a project. But Pusher, the tale of a big-time drug dealer whose life spirals out of control, is the first time they’ve been able to pursue a clubbier sound on the big screen.
Ironically, for a movie originally directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, the more pulsating numbers recall the throbbing electro that was so instrumental in the Dane’s last film, Drive, with the likes of “Pusher Theme” and “Cutting & Doing” adopting a similar blend of Moroder-esque bass-lines and filtered 80s synths.
Elsewhere, “Chase” lives up to its billing as it builds into a frenetic and ominous slab of mechanical techno; “Cutting and Driving,” the only vocal-led track, echoes the hip-house of Basement Jaxx at their most thrillingly playful; while the epic “Go With The Flo” takes in everything from robotic Daft Punk-esque electro to ethereal trance in one tidy 11-minute bundle.
However, for a movie based around the themes of hedonism and danger, the Hi-NRG pace is surprisingly kept to a minimum, with the majority of the record’s 23 tracks favouring a more atmospheric minimal approach. “Pay Me The Money” is basically one note extended to 46 seconds, and “Pet Shop Suicide” and “Coffee Kneecaps” reflect Orbital’s doom-laden titles with a wall of eerie and unsettling industrial effects. Meanwhile, the claustrophobic “Cell” and “Haken Bar” are more indicative of the album’s incidental sound.
Orbital’s third full-length cinematic venture doesn’t always work outside its context, but undeniably recapturing the story’s comedown in a suitably druggy and moody way, it should only enhance their film composing reputation.