Paul Hartnoll’s new track uses cyclists’ heartbeats to inspire their commute

Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll has created the unusual single in collaboration with the British Heart Foundation and Evans Cycles, with the track featuring artwork by Alex Rutterford that combines elements of the human heart with different bike parts.

Sleeve art and design by Alex Rutterford

One half of dance music duo Orbital, Paul Hartnoll is known for helping bring the UK’s burgeoning rave scene into the mainstream in the 90s. It may come as a bit of surprise then, that the musician’s latest release is aimed less at people raving in an abandoned warehouse, and more for the morning commute.

Hartnoll has teamed up with the British Heart Foundation and Evans Cycles to create an experimental new track to encourage more commuters to cycle, marking the 10th anniversary of the retailer taking part in the government’s Ride-to-Work scheme. The initiative was first introduced to inspire people to ditch their cars and other public transport and opt for a healthier commute. For example, recent research by the British Medical Journal has shown that cycling to work can cut the risk of heart disease by as much as 46%.

Heartwork has been produced based on the heartbeats of cyclists across the country, using data collected from over 20,000 journeys. Fortunately for Hartnoll, it turns out that the average commuting heart rate for cyclists – around 128 bpm (beats per minute) – is a similar tempo to a typical techno track.

“As far as it goes with the heartbeats going up and down, I haven’t taken that literally as you’d end up with something that sounds like a Scott Bradley track from Tom and Jerry,” says Hartnoll. “I’ve kept it at an average tempo to associate the drops in tempo with a commute to work, where you stop at traffic lights and the heart rate goes down.”

Even Hartnoll’s own bike has played a role in the making of the track. “Apart from a couple of synth sounds, a kick and a snare, all the percussion are sounds taken from my own bike, where I’ve played it with bits of metal and then shaped that into the framework of the track,” he says. “Whether as a listener you notice that the song is made up of bike sounds or not, it’s there in the DNA of the track.”

Paul Hartnoll in the recording studio

To accompany the recording, designer and director Alex Rutterford was commissioned to create the artwork for the single. The design is based on Rutterford’s visual research on the human heart, with features such as the aorta and cava being lengthened to mirror the look of a bike frame.

“I thought the idea of gears would also serve as visual metaphor for the heart as well,” Rutterford adds. “They represent the heart of a bike in some ways – alternating between fast or slow, and essentially making the bike move with the riders input of physical energy.”

You can listen to Heartwork here