Orbital - Omen

Orbital, aka the Hartnoll brothers, is certainly one of the most successful and enduring techno act of the last 2 decades. And their visuals represented a strong influence, even beyond he Techno scene. This is the work of Grant Fulton, aka Fultano, and it started here, with this 12 inch cover.

Of course, Orbital already had their initial big hit with "Chime", a few months ago, in 1989.
But with this one, They not only showed some more refined electronic songwriting skills, with a pop edge and some brilliant production. They also had their first proper sleeve design. "Chime" only had a semi-generic FFRR sleeve, with a small logotyped "Orbital" to customize it. Here, Fultano started to create a real visual universe for them.

He did it first, with a refined graphic design, going far beyond the utilitarian elements of a dance 12 inch. As far as design go, the presence of great useless things is often a sign of creativity and quality.

Second, Fultano provided them with an imagery that perfectly emphatized the atmosphere of the moment : Techno was about the future, about digital images, virtual reality, and humanity blending with machines. 

But Techno (as opposed to House or Rave) wasn't either a happy and naive feeling : 1990 was the era of the post Blade Runner Cyberpunk litterature, with the idea of a networked future where bodies are getting more and more mechanized, where big corporations are controlling humanity, and the only real freedom is the one the hackers enjoy at their own risks. This culture would culminate with William Gibson's books like "Neuromancer" or Walter Jon Williams's "Hardwired", to name a few.


With this cover, Orbital and Fultano were accurately visualizing all this, with an additional sense of emotion. The scanned hand (reminding of the famous -and menacing- Predator effect) was expressing a desperate attempt at grasping something, or the last movement of a dying target. This illustrated in a strong way the fatalist tone of Cyberpunk, just like the music itself witfully did : the sampled lyrics structuring the title song, taken From an old ABC song ("How To be A Millionaire") was saying : 
"I've Seen The future, 
I can afford it, 
tell you the truth, man, 
someone just bought it!".

But there was also an emotional vision of the future here, with this image of a child, the hand-drawn "orbiting" drawing on the background, and the choice of purple as the main color, that toned down the ensemble (as long as reinforced the elegance of the overall graphic design).


The third and final element in this work that was to endure was the Orbital logo. 
As a matter of fact, it may started as a coincidence : the band's name was in this trademark eliptic shape just like the Title and the catalogue number. But it was already composed in this extended and tightened typography (Helvetica Black), and just like the orbital scrawl on the background, it was to become a key element of the visual identity of Orbital for years.


The remix EP only had a semi-generic FFRR sleeve, but the orbiting scrawl and the color were ensuring the continuity.


Modern, elegant, building on the current Cyberpunk trend, but with an original tone and style, this sleeve did hold the promises of the enduring visual strength of Orbital.

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