Electronic duo Orbital wove a tapestry of familiar tracks Wednesday at Hollywood American Legion Hall. Predictable, yes. But an Orbital show is more than a concert; it is a place.
The group has indeed established itself as one of the top half a dozen British dance-music acts now being hailed as the new alternative in pop. Orbital's following derives as much from its sublime performances as from its recorded techno intricacies and crescendos.
Planet Orbital is a space of otherworldly beauty. At Wednesday's much-anticipated performance, the first of two nights at the hall, fuchsia lights burned to holy chrome as two figures--the brothers Paul and Phil Hartnoll--bobbed with their head-strapped light beams behind a wall of electronics. The focus was on their brains, not their pelvises. This was not a rock show.
The vibe was cerebral as Orbital (which is back in town for the KROQ Almost Acoustic Christmas at the Universal Amphitheatre on Dec. 14) programmed dark new songs from its recent "In Sides" album and even drew from the optimistic innocence of early tracks such as "Chime." Orbital's sound has changed little since its beginnings in the early '90s--pretty, progressive techno that has evolved mainly in the darkness of its mood.
The bass waves rocked the floor like an Alaskan north swell, while higher frequencies lashed the sold-out hall's broad walls. It was not so much a sensory assault as a sensory conquest. It is the apex dance floor experience, the ultimate place to move and be.
The source of the sound was mysterious, yet of diminished importance. For all the audience knew, those shadowy figures behind the sequencers onstage were Martians. On planet Orbital, process is a lost art form. The point is now, now, now. Loop that.