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Orbital and Nathan Fake

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2012 has been a busy twelve months for Orbital. In addition to releasing their first album for eight years, they’ve headlined festival tents, scored film soundtracks, performed at BBC 6 Music’s tenth birthday and embarked on their longest UK tour in recent memory. It’s no surprise then that tonight, the final leg of the tour and their last gig for a while, feels a little bit special.

Yet, before the Hartnoll brothers take to the stage, we’re treated to a warm-up set courtesy of Nathan Fake. And if I’m being completely honest, I’m as excited to see Nathan Fake’s performance as I am the headline act. Walking on stage with an unassuming gait, decked out in a dazzling white Lex  Records t-shirt, Fake doesn’t waste any time filling up the cavernous venue with his array of analogue synths, live pads and melodic loops. It’s an impressive performance, as he hurtles through the off-kilter electronica and techno tracks from his recent album Steam Days, each number undergoing live improvisation, before concluding with a new edit of The Sky Was Pink.

It’s easy to see why Orbital picked Fake as their support act for their UK dates. The fluidity of his set, the live and improvisational he takes to performance, his no-rules approach to producing melodic and idiosyncratic-sounding dance-music, marks him out as their natural successor. And apart from a momentary cock-up in which the music suddenly stops (which, in fairness, he recovers from very quickly and well), tonight’s performance is near flawless.

Heralded by that infamous sample of ‘where time becomes a loop’ from Time Becomes, Orbital’s arrival on stage causes a sort of teenage fervour amidst tonight’s audience, which rather ironically is mostly compromised of a male techno fans of a certain age. Launching straight into One Big Moment Orbital sprint through hits from their recent album Wonky, until the arrival of the trance-like stings and bouncy pads of Belfast emits a whoop of delight from the crowd.

Despite a few decent numbers, notably Impact, the second half of the set is a little lacklustre. Irrespective of the huge and innovative 3D visuals backing the duo’s impressive bank of equipment, tracks like Are We Here? and set closer Doctor, are a reminder of the splodges of mediocrity in Orbital’s back-catalogue. Thankfully, the sagging conclusion, is soon erased from memory courtesy of two encores in which the brothers mix up Stringy Acid, Where Is It Going? and their pièce de résistance Chime. It’s a reminder of just how mind-blowing their best stuff is, with the aforementioned Chime sounding just as fresh twenty-three years after it was first released.

Whilst they might no longer be the coolest cats in dance-music , tonight’s show (and in fact, all of 2012) is very much proof that Orbital can still kick it as well as anyone else. I suspect we won’t hear very much from Orbital for a little while. They’re certainly overdue a nice long break by anyone’s books. But let’s hope they don’t leave it too long before they’re back on the road or in the studio, there’s plenty more miles left in them yet. 

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Grahame Farmer

Grahame Farmer’s love affair with electronic music goes back to the mid-90s when he first began to venture into the UK’s beloved rave culture, finding himself interlaced with some of the country’s most seminal club spaces. A trip to dance music’s anointed holy ground of Ibiza in 1997 then cemented his sense of purpose and laid the foundations for what was to come over the next few decades of his marriage to the music industry.

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