The Ideal Condition
his album’s got a lot of film influences on it,” says Paul Hartnoll at his official website, and he ain’t kidding. In the three years since Orbital called it a day, Paul has winked barely a flicker away from a silver screen—or so it seems. In that time he’s awoken to the qualities of organic instrumentation, and now presents The Ideal Condition less to the record-buyer than to the film or TV producer, a shiny catalogue of lush orchestration, angelic choruses, and sparingly-placed electronic beats.
So roll up, roll up: whatever you need a soundtrack for, Mr. Hartnoll can provide. Epic opening track “Haven’t We Met Before” begins with a horror-movie theme, an ominous piano evoking images of devilish-possession; but the arrival of strings and synths turns it into the closing theme to an ‘80s cop thriller that ends with a clever twist; now we’re scanning across the desert of a far-away planet—where’s the treasure hidden? With monks and women singing skyward, oh no, you fear, somebody’s just died! Meanwhile, on the TV news, the heroine has tragically gone missing—god, you feel like screaming, like the chorus is almost doing! What a terrible cliffhanger of an ending! And then…doorbells.
As well as providing material for the nonsensical montage in your production, Hartnoll also ropes in vocalists to hold together four tracks, for varying purposes and with varying success, and provides three instrumental interludes for when characters are getting profound. Of the former kind, the nasal vocals of Akayzia Parker warbling “I make you feeeeeeeeel! Goooood!” makes “Nothing Else Matters” most suitably fit aspirational TV commercials—luxury cars or shaving foam, perhaps. Elsewhere, Robert Smith does slightly better with the clattering verses and squalling chorus he’s provided with on “Please,” whereas “Aggro” (featuring Joseph Arthur) seems fittingly named after its industrial XTRMNTR sound—and it stands out for being noticeably louder, and better, than its surrounding brochure pages. Of the interludes, “Simple Sounds” is worth mentioning for its 16th-century synths, depicting a medieval banquet setting complete with dancing jesters in bodysuits with—not bells—but bulging bass beats. Bonkers.
What’s most obvious about The Ideal Condition is that—imaginary jesters aside—it’s not a record to dance to. Hartnoll’s turned his attention away from the energetic shadowy gathering-place for youth to the more sedate shadowy gathering-place where square-eyes are grown, not with a box-office blockbuster but with a show-reel to precede the main event. Paul Hartnoll’s next solo album will surely be stocked on the “OST” shelf—and it will benefit from being tied to one story, linked themes, and defined characters and settings. If that prediction doesn’t hold, The Ideal Condition won’t have done its job.
Reviewed by: Ally Brown
Reviewed on: 2007-06-21
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