On this day in 1991, Orbital released the III EP, the group’s fourth single, which contained the blissful masterpiece Belfast on its B-side.
The story of how the track came to such a quintessential part of the Hartnoll brothers’ catalogue is well-known – having been booked to play Belfast Art College in May 1990, David Holmes and Alan Simms ‘discovered’ the track on a discarded demo tape left behind by the band.
“We left David with a tape, with a demo of Belfast, as it is now known,” Orbital’s Phil Hartnoll told BBC last year. “We had such a brilliant time, we completely loved it, and we thought ‘ok, because of the experience we had, it’s a beautiful track, we’ve got to call it Belfast.”
But the ethereal vocal loop that forms the backdrop to the track predates that precipitous encounter, and indeed the city of Belfast altogether.
It’s taken from O Euchari, a vocal composition by Hildegard von Bingen, also known as the Sibyl of the Rhine (that’s her on the left in the picture above), who plied her trade back in 12th century Germany. The version in question was performed by soprano Emily van Evera.
A writer, composer, philosopher, visionary and mystic – oh, and a Benedictine abbess – Hildegard took much of her inspiration from the ‘beatific visions’ she saw as a child, which formed the basis for her choral compositions.
Sound familiar? As well as appearing in Orbital’s Belfast, the same sample occurs in The Beloved’s The Sun Rising, released the previous year.
Something tells us, however, that Ms. Von Bingen may not have approved of the Hartnoll’s choice for the A-side of the III EP, the altogether more blasphemous Satan. 🙂
[Kudos to Dubbtron and London Records for the YouTube uploads]