Pop: Slaves to the rhythm of the market
THE ORB ROYAL ALBERT HALL LONDON
Saturday 24 October 1998
Failure? Well, the sound was terrible but the audience tolerated it. Success? You can't ignore sales. Playfulness? Anyone who promotes a single on Top of the Pops by playing chess (as they did with "Blue Room") deserves respect.
But The Orb don't play in the normal sense. They bounce up and down behind a mixing desk and a pair of turntables. Suspend judgement? Thursday's event included a chunk of "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!" Despite Orb founder Alex Paterson's excellent record collection, this choice clearly required some temporary suspension of taste. Risks? More of that later.
On Friday night, The Orb's largely pre-programmed music pounded as searchlights swooped and strobes flashed, giving the illusion of pulsing activity to the crowd, with its swaying, out-of-time dancers, oblivious to the help provided by unyielding four-on-the-floor kick-drum samples. At times, the giant screen behind Paterson and multi-tasking Andy Hughes showed dazzling videos with vaguely ecological themes and abstract animations. The effect was of bravura visual improvisation over a low-density backing track.
As the night wore on and I watched more uncoordinated jiggling and swaying, it occurred to me that the lucrative "dance industry" is founded on out- of-time dancing and processed music, in the same way that the "food industry" is based on bland, processed food. Yet out in the foyer, Islington Greenpeace handed out alarming leaflets about genetic engineering and the food giants.
Despite The Orb's video critiques of mass consumption, much of what they dish up is bland, processed music. Greatest hits based on greatest hits (new album - U.F.Off - out now for the Christmas market).
When the spoken sample of "Little Fluffy Clouds" boomed incoherently over the overloaded sound system, people cheered in a kind of "I've got that record at home" way. A multi-coloured doughnut wobbled on the screen while catchy samples filled the cavernous space. The beats stopped to reveal Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint. The crowd cheered this sliver of recreational minimalism. An interesting experience; an "event".
But there were no risks being taken, no sense of the danger or passion that can come from performance. Ultimately, The Orb is more "creative business" than creative music, playing safe and sound.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Saudi Arabia mosque bombing: Two volunteer security guards hailed as heroes for stopping Isis suicide bomber reaching worshippers
- 3 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 4 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 5 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote
David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'