Orbital: Heavy On Electronics

Posted: December 05, 1992

This is not a concert, but an event: No fists-in-the air or Elvis pelvis here.

Members of Orbital are almost hiding behind their computer-driven instruments, which look like something out of WarGames. And the audience, well, the audience doesn't much care about what is going on onstage. People seem more interested in watching others.

Using the measure of a traditional concert, Orbital's full-house visit to the Trocadero Wednesday night - as an opener for industrial-dance act Meat Beat Manifesto - gets a thumb-and-a-half down. But this show by an up-and- coming British dance group may be a window to the future, with the concert as multimedia event where the crowd is as much a focal point as the artist.

Orbital's futuristic shtick is, however, a bit exaggerated. Members' hiding and their performance of an almost-unbroken string of same-paced electronic ''ambient" music, paired with the monotonous blue glow of their move-to- the-music Intellebeam lighting, makes for an uninspiring show.

The group's continuous 120-beats-per-minute performance is in one sense an advancement over DJ-spun dance music: There are no flaws in synchronizing different songs, because the computers keep a simultaneous beat. But Orbital lacked the knack of a good DJ to "work the crowd" with a progressive pace and occasional silence.

Though such proletarian events may be the next wave, Orbital fails to take advantage of the technological advances that let them vary tracks - different streams of sound - and the pace of the show.

Where DJs and other technologically dependent acts, such as New York's Moby, get crowds in a frenzy, Orbital brings them to Earth.

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