Orbital at Glastonbury via the BBC
It soon became very clear why their followers wanted Orbital on last at Worthy Farm. Pomp rockers (obliged to give them that prefix these days) Muse impressed in their ‘bombastic’ way, but if you’ve just had a weekend of pharmaceutical indulgence their slabs of sound wouldn’t do you any favours (so the Hartnolls went to the Other Stage).
In our still-diversifying techno general store, they quickly became the act of choice for those that wanted a bit of the old rave spirit, a dash of cinematic futurism, but none of that fluffy house nonsense. Though proponents of the last might well tune in and come down to it after putting down their handbag. The Brown album ruled Bedroom Techno, and I don’t mean that as a criticism. Their place was sealed when, as a replacement, they thrilled Glstnbry ten years ago and more importantly given the dominance of mainstream indie rock, convinced bloated NME hacks that techno could be Live! Orbital never had Leftfield’s depth, Chemical Brothers’ gimmicky bounce, Orb’s quirky accessibility or other attributes of ‘stadium’ rave acts. They could never experiment, progress and still entice a l’Aphex Twin or Autechre. Yet they were pitched perfectly in between, devout followers of the techno (and technology) revolution but unable for whatever reason to lead the dancers into an alt-rave utopia.
Watching these recorded highlights, this dichotomy seemed to be evident in the brothers themselves: Phil, ecstatic, feeling the rush off the riffs with all its nostalgic association and present communion, leading the dance; Paul, motionless, working the banks of machines – I’m enjoying this in my own way, I am from Kent remember and my real-world concerns can never be dissolved. (I hope I’ve got this round the right way)
As the loops of Chime, Halycon, Doctor Who, A Perfect Sunrise, etc left the sequencers, we could remind ourselves that this retiring band created perfect anthems for the alternative side of House & Techno Inc. Yet they remembered the importance of a killer hook; otherwise, dance is so much bump and thud and minute variation in frequency. Orbital’s lack of out there-ness was also their strength.