News on Orbital, Stereo MCs, Ministry Of Sound.

Orbital Come Round Again

Electronic music pioneers Orbital will on April 30 release "The Altogether" on FFrr/London Records, the follow-up to 1999's "The Middle of Nowhere." The band -- brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll, from Kent, South East England -- named themselves after Greater London's infamous circular motorway, the M25 (a popular transport route for clubbers during the reign of acid house).

Together since 1989, Orbital was one of the first dance music acts to develop as successful album makers (three U.K. top-5 albums to date) and stadium fillers. "Chime", its first single on FFrr, became a top-20 hit on the U.K. singles chart in 1990, propelling the Hartnolls from the marginal techno underground to the trappings of commercial success, with appearances on TV music shows like "Top of the Pops" and the establishment of a loyal fan base.

The group's elaborate visual imagery and progressively unconventional approach to music -- its first two albums remain untitled and are, in hindsight, referred to as the "green" album and the "brown" album -- coupled with huge tracks like "Satan", "Halcyon+on+on" and the remake of the soundtrack from '60s series "The Saint", helped secure its place on the music festival circuit, from Glastonbury to Tribal Gathering and Lollapalooza to Woodstock 2.

"The Altogether," Orbital's sixth album in 10 years, was recorded at its London studio and features vocal input from David Gray and recently deceased punk maverick Ian Dury, among others. In the usual array of many and varied samples are U.S. hard rock band Tool and trash rockabillies the Cramps. The album was produced by regular Orbital contributor Mickey Mann, who previously worked on their "brown" and "The Middle of Nowhere" albums.

Orbital fans will be pleased to note that, in a bow to public pressure, the group's "Doctor Who" track -- originally commissioned by the BBC two years ago to accompany a television special on the campy sci-fi series -- is included on "The Altogether." The song inadvertently became a favorite in Orbital's live sets, but has never been released as a single.

From May 5, Orbital will be back on the road for a U.K. tour, culminating with a May 26 stop at the Homelands festival. "Funny Break (One Is Enough)", the first single from the album, was released in the U.K. this week, to be followed by "The Altogether" in two weeks.

Stereo MC's Are Back

Almost 10 years since 1992's "Connected," the album that propelled them to fame, U.K. beat avengers the Stereo MC's return to address the legacy that has been propagated by the U.K. music press in its absence. The group's fourth album, "Deep Down & Dirty," will get a May 28 U.K. release on Universal/Island.

The group's core members -- vocalist Rob Birch and muso Nick Hallam, who met as school kids in Nottingham, England -- have made sporadic appearances with the occasional remix (including a run through Madonna's "Frozen") and even a contribution to StudioK7's hugely respected "DJ Kicks" compilation series in 2000. But it was the prospect of this long-awaited album that has kept Stereo MC's fans on tenterhooks.

The band has enjoyed varying line-ups around Birch and Hallam since forming in 1987. The 1991 breakthrough album "Supernatural" gave the Stereo MC's their first U.S. hit single with "Elevate My Mind" (allegedly the first U.K. hip-hop act to go top-40 in the U.S.), and the follow-up, "Connected", lead to Brit Awards for best album and best band in 1994.

The first single from the new album, also called "Deep Down & Dirty," will be released May 7 in the U.K. and features a remix from Andrew Weatherall (Two Lone Swordsmen).

Ministry of Sound Take Over Knebworth

U.K. dance music impresarios Ministry of Sound will on Aug. 11-12 take over traditional outdoor rock venue Knebworth for the first time.

The Ministry's Knebworth 01 festival will be set on the grounds of the 150 year-old Knebworth House, 20 miles outside of London. The organizers, who hope to attract 55,000 revelers, promise 150 live acts and DJs from some of the UK's leading club nights including Renaissance and Headstart, across 11 stages. Jamiroquai will headline, playing its first major gig in almost two years.

Ministry of Sound's Mark Rodol says, "We wanted to unite clubland in the country's most stunning location and bring together the biggest movers and shakers in dance music."

Among the other luminaries treading turf once trampled by the likes of Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, and Oasis will be Roni Size, Luke Slater, Steve Lawler, and Todd Terry.