Orbital On Peak

Peak Provides Inspiration For UK Dance Legends

For British dance music, there aren’t many more influential acts than Orbital. As the late-’80s rave scene became a cultural phenomenon in cities all over the UK, brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll were at the forefront. Their music drew influence from Chicago’s acid house movement and darker industrial electronica, and tapped into the hedonistic party culture of Ibiza, to define the fast-paced, energetic sound of the early ’90s UK sound.

From their earliest releases to their 2018 single ‘Tiny Foldable Cities’, Orbital’s love affair with synthesizers is obvious. Novation synths have been with Orbital throughout their career and, today, Paul Hartnoll uses Novation Peak among his huge collection of synthesizers amassed over the decades. “I’ve been a fan of Novation since the Supernova, which was a real powerhouse for Orbital in the late ’90s. I also love the Bass Station II,” he says. “In fact, I’ve been a fan of Chris Hugget’s synths since the OSCar, which is still one of my favourite monosynths. It was also a big part of the early Orbital sound.”

“Playing with Peak’s distortion and gain stages is a word of discovery in itself.” — Paul Hartnoll, Orbital

Paul refers here to the designer considered by many as the godfather of British synths, and a long-time Novation collaborator. Chris Hugget’s magnificent mind dreamed up Peak, and his legacy and decades of experience make it the powerful polysynth it is. With futuristic, super-high-resolution digital oscillators and lush effects, mixed with old-fashioned analogue circuitry for filters and VCAs, it has the best of both worlds — and more, as Paul explains. “It’s sharp, hot, silky, modern, accessible yet deep, and very easy to get your head around. But there are a lot of permutations and subtleties to be had. Just playing with all the distortion and gain stages is a word of discovery in itself.”

Hartnoll prefers to create sounds from scratch, using the Init patch, “I do find it easier to dial in exactly what I want, than trawl through presets for something similar.” But, he admits, “I’ll use a preset if it catches my ear, I’m not proud!”

Paul has been using Peak in earnest for several months now, including on the new Orbital album Monsters Exist (September 2018). “It doesn’t sound like a polyphonic Bass Station, which was what I was expecting,” he remarks. “It can do anything really — its a proper synth! It’s on at least two tracks on the new album, and so far I’ve used it for making sustained epic and gothic bass, as well as digital moving pads, spike FM bass and midrange rhythm bits, and unusual harmonic and slightly distorted leads. It does distortion very well.”