Even though I was only a mere 11 when the 90s ended, I still mourn the passing of the decade to this very day. Lucky for me then, that walking into the Slade Rooms in Wolverhampton to see dance act The Orb, was like stepping through a time-machine back to the early part of that very glowing decade.
My sister, who is 19 – so too young to remember the furore it caused back in its first incarnation, orders a Hooch at the bar. We walk up to the stage and I catch glimpses of 90s fashion and hear waves of beats which would have sat very comfortably at a rave around 25 years ago. Incidentally, this show is part of The Orb’s 25th anniversary tour.
Over this span the dance act has constantly been refreshing its sound – and the line-up, which has ensured their remarkable longevity to this day. Tonight, Alex Paterson, who has been the only constant member in the ever evolving duo, is joined by Thomas Fehlmann, who has been involved in The Orb since 1995.
Theirs is a sound rooted in acid house, but it is their incorporation of a diverse range of other genres which gives them their unique sound. 4/4 beats and pulsating piano melodies are there, sure, but there are thumping techno rhythms, disco grooves, unlikely film and TV samples, smatterings of dub and blissful moments of atmospheric ambience too.
The very best dance records work on the notion of building up a climax – a steady journey to a breakdown and the eruption of an electrifying beat. The Orb have enough experience to know how this works – and so the whole set takes on this structure, with a chilled start building and culminating in the climax of their biggest hit Little Fluffy Clouds – which sounds even more glorious live.
The crowd feels like a collection of die-hard Orb fans – mostly men in their early 40s- who have likely followed the act throughout their career. Tonight their gaze is transfixed on the DJs – their faces beaming from adoration and their bodies bumping along to the beats. Alex and Thomas too, are clearly revelling in the delight of playing to them.
They’re right to look pleased – as they’re delivering a tremendously euphoric set. Even the visuals creep up on us from humble beginnings of generic Windows screen saver circa 1999 type graphics at the start of the set to a trippy disco backdrop (imagine David Lynch directing a Kylie video). Like the best gigs – I feel totally lost in it, I’m thinking of nothing but being immersed in the soundscape they’re weaving around my ears. I have been well and truly transported back to a 90s acid house rave. 25 years very well celebrated.