This year's Flux Festival hits Edinburgh with an opening concert by ORBITAL. Move over rockers, dance music has entered the live arena. Words: Simone Baird
. translate into an exciting live stage show? One act
THERE WAS A TIME, at the start of the 903, when the dance music phenomenon that was engulﬁng Britain was viewed as a short-lived phase. Few saw it being any more than a passing musical fad. Dance
acts could only release disposable twelve inch singles, not full-length albums, and, anyway, how on earth could music made with synethsisers and computers
that sums up just how wrong that line of thinking would prove to be is Orbital.
Brothers Phil and Paul Hartnoll took their band name from the M25 ring-road around London, full of convoys of young ravers searching out the elusive illegal parties in and around the capital in the summer of ’89, as well as from the repetitive loops within electronic music. Their ﬁrst single, ‘Chime’, instantly sold out of its 1,000 run and was picked up by Ffrr before going on to chart in the top twenty. With commendable foresight by the label, the band were signed to a multi-record deal, meaning that after ten years — literally a lifetime in dance music — they are still under the same London Records umbrella.
‘We’re stuck with them for two more albums,’ says Phil, the elder of the two, not sounding entirely impressed by the idea. ‘We struck a six-album deal, then we added another one on during the course of the years because we didn’t think that we would ever get there in the early times. We never thought that it would last.’
The band released Middle Of Nowhere last year, a noticeably lighter, less introspective affair than their previous work. ‘We were happier at the time,’ admits Phil. ‘1 think that an album reﬂects what’s
going on in your life and the moods you feel at the time. We had a few tragedies on previous albums with very close friends dying. that sort of thing; luckily nobody died this time. It’s a bit extreme. I know, but it gets a bit like that. This time it was like. "Come on. let’s get out of this moody rut".’ Orbital’s pioneering stage shows (think Pink Floyd with cred) are of as much importance to the dance industry as their music. So it’s no surprise to see the band playing the first gig at this year’s Flux Festival in Edinburgh . ‘We wanted artists who have created something new,’ says Flux director Alex Poots. ‘and Orbital are one of the few groups around who have a musical language all their own and put on a really good show.’
Besides their definitive ambient techno sound and spectacular live appearances, Phil and Paul’s trademark has to be the glasses that they wear on stage. Many a photo has them peering from behind racks of Rolands wearing strange wraparound plastic specs with tiny torches attached to their heads. Are they still worn?
“When I’m swimming.’ Phil laughs. ‘Actually. we started wearing them for a purely practical reason: when
we’re looking at tiny screens and pushing little buttons and knobs, we can see. They’re quite heavy, actually. 1 have to wear a huge plaster, like a boxer, across my nose or else I end up with a huge welt and I can do without that, I can tell you. I need all the help that I can get.’
Orbital (Fringe) Flux @ Princes Street Gardens, 668 2019, 13 Aug. 8pm, £12.50/£10.
'An album reflects what's going on in your
life and the moods you feel at the time.
Luckily nobody died this time.’ Phil Hartnoll 281’IIEIJ81’12—19 Aug 1999