Thirty years ago two brothers from Sevenoaks in Kent (neither called Harry) recorded a track in a cupboard under the stairs, starting them on a pioneering course that would serve to help shape the future of electronic music. Paul and Phil Hartnoll formed Orbital in the death throes of the 80s against a politically charged backdrop of impending Poll Tax and a growing concern about illegal raves. Their brand of nuanced electronica became synonymous with an era that was at times described as subversive and dangerous. In truth, it was probably the start of the most exiting, game-changing development in popular music and it’s associated youth culture since Punk. Three decades on, the brothers Hartnoll are still at it and still pushing the boundaries of their genre.
Orbital brought their spectacular show to the East Kent coast at the weekend to the delight of a variety of ravers. There was no disused warehouse, no underground movement, no cryptic clues as to where to head and, thankfully, no police intervention to break up the party. Today’s Oribital show was all above board, literally out in the open and all inclusive. Margate’s rejuvenated jewel Dreamland played host to a very special event that for some brought back the hedonistic delights of the past and for others delivered a magnificent glimpse of a seminal EDM act.
Through the course of a punctuated career as Orbital, the Hartnoll brothers have endeavoured, and largely delivered on, changing and shaping the sound of the moment. With a political landscape of similarly monumental proportions to that which accompanied the band’s birth, to help inspire their most recent work they have seemingly been given the fillip that they needed to release some of their best work in years. With their new album ‘Monsters Exist’ due out in September and on the back of two of this year’s most original singles, it was certainly a great time to catch Orbital approaching a new high.
As the sun began to set over the Isle Of Thanet, Orbital donned their infamous torch glasses and took to the Scenic Stage like electro demi-gods atop their tower of shimmering technology. Two men tweaking and twiddling, turning knobs, pushing buttons, adjusting balances and sliding faders has never looked like more of an artform than it did on Saturday night. From the exquisite start of ‘Lush 3-1’ through to the eventual close-out track of ‘The Dr Who Theme’, Orbital mesmerised all before them with a mixture of old and new tracks and a magnificent light show that most certainly wowed the crowd.
The open air setting on a heady summer evening in Margate could not have been more finely chosen if you’d tried. Aside the illuminated big wheel, that at times too mimicked the beats emanating from the stage, and in front of the rebuilt wooden rollercoaster, The Scenic Railway, Orbital put on an intoxicating show that seemed to last no time at all. There was a party atmosphere on the park as different generations danced the night away to a soundtrack that entirely spanned Orbital’s back catalogue from beginning to end. As ‘Impact’ ramped up the collective electrical charge of the gathered masses, shapes that hadn’t been seen in public spaces since 1992 were once again being thrown, some to the clear astonishment and bemusement of the younger members of the audience.
From the band’s first track, and also crowd-pleasing first track of the band’s banging encore, ‘Chime’, through to their most recent, slightly tongue-in-cheek floor filler ‘P.H.U.K’, Orbital held their audience entranced by a show that had spectacle and theatre. The sequencing of the whole evening was masterful and kept on delivering with each track. ‘Halcyon’ was just sublime and ‘Satan’ packed full of a powerful intensity matched only by the predominantly red back drop and ominous projections that accompanied its airing. Newer tracks ‘The End Is Nigh’ and ‘Tiny Foldable Cities’ stood up incredibly well to their better known counterparts and were spliced into the set superbly. Tracks like ‘Belfast’ played out across the summer’s night as though they were composed to soundtrack it whilst the ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’/’You Give Love A Bad Name’ cover mash-up drew one of the biggest cheers of the evening as we were transported back three decades to marvel in the mix.
Orbital played out a set to remember, their first in Kent since 1990, in front of a very appreciative crowd on a very special night. The brothers Hartnoll put on a light show to rival any New Year’s Eve pyrotechnics marvel and combined some brilliant projections into the mix of electro/techno brilliance that only served to enhance this must see show. Orbital brought all their toys to the play park, used them to great effect and delighted all before them as they lit up Dreamland into the biggest dance floor it’s seen in years. Rave on… It’s a crazy feeling.