There is nothing rock'n'roll about [a]Orbital[/a], unlike, say, [a]Underworld[/a], [a]Aphex Twin[/a] or [B]The Chemical Brothers[/B] and their brutally dynamic mind-warps battering us gleefully on t
Ten years in ‘techno’ and there’s still something jocular, juvenile and shock-of-the-new about the spectacular lights on the heads of the Hartnoll brothers, the men who are [a]Orbital[/a], the men who practically invented the whole spooky-spec spotlight caper.
Phil, being face-on, is the man with the lights that guide the limbs inside the pulsing Town & Country (five deep at the bar, cheery young fellas asking [a]NME[/a], who looks, naturally, like a drug dealer, where they can “get any pills”), twin-peaked sparkles of bright, white light, twinkling out like the star-shaped specs of Bootsy Collins himself, bobbing up and down and up and down like a metronomic spaceman conducting the symphony of sound of the 1990s, while the limbs of Leeds do exactly the bobbin’ same.
[I]Suddenly[/I], it’s like Stereophonics, the ubiquitous grey pantaloons and staying-in-being-the-new-going-out never happened. Suddenly, the knees are aloft, ‘the kids’ are berserk and the world hollers in unison, in the absence here of lyrics, [I]”My shirt’s spanglier than your shirt and why stay in when you can go out?”[/I].
And the mild men of [a]Orbital[/a] can do this while simultaneously playing two-thirds of a set devoted to their new LP, ‘The Middle Of Nowhere’, which isn’t even out yet and no-one minds at all. Instead, they whoop alongside the Star Trek sing-along serenade of the opening ‘Way Outp’ with its cheersome Stylophone/Suzi Quatro/John Craven’s Newsround thigh-slap perkiness while three huge, rectangular backdrop screens twirl sequences of darting, phosphorescent light like a mixing desk engineered by God.
[a]Orbital[/a]’s music – all of it, ‘Halcyon’ from the old days, ‘Nothing Left (One)’ and ‘Nothing Left (Two)’ from the new days – is ‘inside the head music’ which comes to colossal life best anywhere but the inside of your head. Instead the songs come to life best where other people live, ‘cos they’re there, quite simply, to lift you into the communal air. Even more simply, they’re just beautiful, and that’s all. Which has probably never been said of Bon Jovi‘s ‘You Give Luuuuurve! A Bad Name!’ apparently now booming from [a]Orbital[/a]’s amps, before turning into Belinda Carlisle‘s ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’ in some post-post-ironic barrage of idiocy, all of which is minimally amusing, though serves its purpose well – to remind us there is no such thing as cool. Because there isn’t.
And, to prove it, the bagpipes of new single ‘Style’ honk upwards past the backdrop with armchairs twirling in outer space besides the fruit machines birling in the lottery of life and the increasingly huge words ‘Why?’, ‘More?’, ‘More?’ and ‘MORE?’. We, meanwhile, dance ourselves sweat-blind to the song called ‘Satan’ and punch people’s necks to a transcendent ‘Chime’ and do the disco-gonzo twirly hand ‘goth’ dance to the theme tune to Doctor Who. And suddenly [a]Orbital[/a]’s purpose becomes clearer still: more than ever, they’re here simply to cheer the world up.
There is nothing rock’n’roll about [a]Orbital[/a], unlike, say, Underworld, Aphex Twin or The Chemical Brothers and their brutally dynamic mind-warps battering us gleefully on the rocks of physiological oblivion. You’ll come to no harm here; [a]Orbital[/a] are our comfy big brothers of emotional serenity, a great big happy-sap dance on air into the mists of Paul‘s beloved carpet of springtime bluebells forever and ever, ahem. Behind the two dreamers onstage, banks of lights shimmy, explode and retract to a final, fading, circular ‘O’. This year, it’s official, says the subliminal message, surely, we’re going to have a summer.
Sign up for the newsletter