Focus Your Attention On A Spot

Today’s post accidentally fits in really well with David Byrne’s ideas about finding vocals and using them in new musical places (see yesterday’s My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts post). A while ago someone somewhere, sorry I can’t remember who, posted two Orbital tracks both released in 1990, one the B-side to Chime and the other a remix of that B- side from the Omen 12″. Deeper and 2 Deep take the voice from a relaxation tape, designed to help people who were unable to relax or get to sleep, calm down and chill the fuck out. A warm, calming voice appropriated by the Hartnoll brothers and laid over some techno. Knowing, ironic, a bit trippy. ‘Close your eyes and relax…’

2 Deep

I put both versions onto a compilation CD along with other similar stuff and found that they sounded really good driving to and from work. Thankfully they didn’t cause me to relax so much that I fell asleep at the wheel. That would not have been relaxing.

Also from 1990 and in the same ballpark is this from Ed Ball’s Love Corporation- sparkling, inventive acid house with a vocal found on a New Age, meditation tape, remixed by the King of Shoom Danny Rampling. ‘Close your eyes and begin to breathe slowly and deeply…’

Palatial (Danny Rampling Remix)

‘Revel in this sleep and I will return in a minute’

Maru

Plaid’s new album Polymers is proving that experimental electronic music can be reflective of the early- to- mid 90s while also utterly modern, techno rhythms adorned with machine melodies- accessible, repetitious, hypnotic and at places liable to take your breath away. Orbital’s remix of Maru proves that they haven’t lost their touch either. A dancer.

Maru means circle in Japanese and is associated with goodness- a circle is used to mark correct answers on tests and exams (rather than a tick as we’d use). Maru is also a cat, a cat who lives in japan, and is apparently the most watched animal in the world with over 325 million views on Youtube. Here he is relaxing in a box.

Golden Girls

Yesterday one of our longest standing friends got married- we all met doing teacher training back in the early 90s. Today he and his new husband are holding a party for everyone who couldn’t make the wedding. It will inevitably be a full on party, a celebration and a dance.

Back in 1992 Orbital remixed this track, a Michael Hazell and Paul Hartnoll co-production for Belgian label R&S, an Orbital track in everything but name. It is a full on party, a celebration and a dancer too.

Kinetic (Orbital Mix)

Tiny Foldable Cities

New tracks from Orbital could potentially be a let down, a bit Orbital-by-numbers- press the right buttons, get the right sounds, presto. Thankfully this doesn’t seem to be the case with Tiny Foldable Cities, a new track played at their gig at the Apollo I attended back in December last year. There is a Philip Glass element to the melody part from the intro, set off neatly by the buzzing bassline. Dramatic and full of life. Eye catching video too.

Orbital At The Apollo

The Hartnoll brothers, re-united again, played Manchester on Friday night. Just before kick off I was outside the Apollo trying to shift a spare ticket- along with half a dozen other middle aged men also trying to sell spares. ‘Dad techno ticket to sell’ someone shouted. Inside, having been unsuccessful in selling the spare, it was pretty rammed despite the spare ticket situation. Round the fringes of the Apollo standing area were a few hardy souls who looked like they’d taken an E in 1989 and never stopped but largely it was middle aged mums and dads on a night out.

Orbital appeared on a podium on top of the stage making them a good 10 feet above the usual stage height, with films and images projected above them, below them and behind them. A lattice of mini-laser beams mid-set caused cheers. Musically it’s a greatest hits set plus a few new ones, perfectly paced, the songs segueing into one another. Opening with Lush 3 and then straight into Impact (The Earth Is Burning) is a statement of intent. Orbital are not going to spend long warming you up- the kickdrum started about 20 seconds in and didn’t really let up. From the off the bass was loud- I could feel my jeans and coat vibrating. Phil and Paul are both wearing the trademark light-up glasses and frequently waving their hands in the air and doing the pointing-fingers dance, clearly enjoying themselves.

They chuck in 2017’s Copenhagen early on and premier two other new ones (Phuk and Tiny Foldable Cities) but the main joy is in hearing their classic tracks at volume in front of an appreciative crowd- The Girl With The Sun In Her Head, Satan, a beautiful Halcyon and set closer Belfast. The rock trappings of the encore are still with us- they thank us, go off and we await their return. And when they return we are given The Box, a slightly too short Chime and Where Is It Going? All over by 11.00 pm. Babysitters get double after midnight.

Belfast

Kinetic

As well as the slightly Orbital-by-numbers new track Copenhagen (which has grown on me over the last week) Orbital have celebrated their return by reworking an older track, Kinetic (a track they’ve reworked before admittedly). This 2017 version has some pretty spine tingling moments and is sure to work well with the crowd at the Apollo in December, a night when babysitters will be a premium in the Manchester area. Name your price teenagers.

Impact

Of all the big hitters of the dance music world of the early 90s Orbital always seem to be the raviest, the least moody, the most up and optimistic. The first two Orbital albums, the green one and the brown one, are both essential snapshots of the duo and the scene. The second one (brown or 2) is a blast from start to finish, opening wiht the sampled voice talking about Moebius, time as a loop, the sampled then looped and played against another version of it. From there on in the synthesizers and drum machines take over and the Hartnoll brothers manage to make techno that is melodic and poppy, dance music that works at home, simple sounding tunes that are increasingly complex, all building towards the majesty that is Halcyon + On + On. Before that though there is the ten minutes of this track, three or four songs in one but all the same too- synths, sirens, clattering drums, breakdowns, build ups and half way through a voice… ‘it’s like a cry for survival’.

Impact (The Earth Is Burning)