The Orb and Dave Seaman

East Village Loft and Boutique
Saturday 29th March 2014

Reviewed by Chumki Banerjee


As spring drew on her dance shoes, sprinkled blossom through her hair, siren blast from misspent past, blew in on balmy air.

The last weekend of March wafted in gently enough on an unexpected southern breeze, caressing languid limbs laid bare, unshod, recklessly stripped of winter bulk, flashing pallid flesh. Clothing incautiously thrown to winds of change, lulled by false sense of security, common sense soon followed, when ignoring loss of one vital hour’s sleep, as clocks sprang inconsiderately forward, I decided to delve, years out of practice, into salubrious past of all night dancing.

Start of slippery slope slid in innocuously enough, with quiet temptations of Graham Smilie’s exhibition of musical photos at The Arena Gallery, my review of which you can read elsewhere. Soaked in spirit of Liverpool’s musical early eighties it proved portent for rest of weekend, because it linked start of my Merseyside musical life with revelatory revolution of dance which followed a few years later, which itself looped back to school age infatuation with all things electronic.

Unwittingly, Smillie’s exhibition sucked me into swirling wormhole of space time continuum which revisited, revitalised and reawakened musical obsessions of the past and spat them into the present, fate contriving to coalesce seminal moments of my musical life into condensed summary, squashed into one mind-warping weekend. Smillie’s world my first introduction to Liverpool’s grassroots musical life, crashing, a few years later into planet of dance; reminding me how music can reinvent, rewind, remix itself in just a few years, while retaining its resilience, transcending time; electronic miniaturisation and digitalisation exploding end of eighties into riot of colours, quasar of dance, pop eating itself re-evolving the past, ripping it apart while revering its relevance, reorganised , reconstructed at atomic level, essence retained, diffused through micro filters, luminous new palette of infinite sounds at fingertips; Liverpool at English epicentre of this revolution, fortuitously where I had unexpectedly washed up.


This was music made for me, a natural affinity which unbeknown had been building from formative years, first seeds sown by flotsam who floated through my parents’ flat, when I was young. Flailing over fallen figures, flaked out on the floor, I loved to listen as they philosophised on matters metaphysical, mathematical, interstellar, matter itself and its motion through time and space. Hypnotised by spinning spools of reel-to-reel tapes machine, I fell asleep in nearest arms, as they sang, played guitar, lulled me to stars with Carl Sagan black hole tales. Growing up, an enlightened girl’s school encouraged or tolerated wide eyed naive passions; for physics, science fiction, dramatically apocalyptical artwork, special relativity, time travel, cosmology and music, as long as it was classical, but drew the line at rearrangements of Bach in Banshee style, ‘modern’ music beyond Schoenberg, wiring oscillators and analogue synthesisers, synthesising speakers from fundamental components and assembling amplifiers from transistors, resistors and capacitors. Electronic music, of the analogue variety, was meddled in at evening classes, spare time supposedly scheduled for homework secretly sidelined to splicing snippets of sounds with razor blade and block, recordings of wind-up toys or anything that made a racket, reverberated, resonated, patched through effects synth, modulated, rhythmically realigned, layered, harmonised, reassembled obsessively replayed, refined over countless hours, into vaguest semblance of melody.

However, ingenuous aspirations dissolved as real life intervened, disabused of childhood dreams, delusion dematerialised when despite studying electrical engineering and a sorry attempt at sound engineering, I did not end up a BBC musical effects boffin.

Cauterising components in construction of bedroom studio, was put on back burner of rented accommodation, soldering iron stowed away for day that never came; extrapolating Einstein’s theory, to unlock secret of exceeding speed of light was sidelined, as field equations fled, leaked through worm holes of my brain; I finally conceded that Chopin was better off without my intercessions; and that ability to double fry chips was more practical skill than knowing how to design the micro variety.

That was until the magic of miniaturisation and digital synthesis seductively lifted the lid of Pandora’s Box, to stir sleeping demons. Once more smitten, at first I was afraid, I was petrified; this looked like something from outer space; but couldn’t live without this new temptation by my side. Revelatory dawn broke with realisation that virtual world, of excitable electrons, mimicked more bulky reality with which I had been familiar; that it made musical microsurgery much more manageable, without need for sticky splicing tape; that symphonies of sound could be conjured, conducted with just a keyboard; that manifestation of musical imagination was miraculously enabled by on screen manipulations; that infinite pick and mix could be sampled, snipped, re-sorted, genetically mutated, regurgitated in a variety pack of flavours.

This made at home revolution inspiring rash of releases, re-stimulating another obsession, hi-fi and vinyl; technological terror turned around by first touch of Technics decks, fading with Pioneering slide on mini Dj mixing desk; trawling for new vinyl became a fetish, merging tunes a mania; Platipus my prophet, Hooj Choons my hallelujah, Sonar my Bethlehem star, heaven manifested on earth, I was reborn.

Sadly age comes crawling to every door. Having abandoned efforts to realise time travel I could only travel forward, with no extenuating law of nature to extend age at which dancing to a driven beat is seemly for a ‘lady’, even one with complete disregard for dignity. So, I crept with others into cupboard of closet DJ and dance music maker.

Until tonight!


Maybe it’s because those who grew up with electronic dance have grown up, come out the other side of home-making, procreation and other pragmatic distractions fundamental to continuation of the human race, raring once more for recreation, but it feels as if air hung with hiatus of recent years is beginning to hum, once again, with haze of harder hitting tunes, taping tetchy foot, floating from reliable measures of popular culture, such as Top Shop, reverberating from revivals and resurrections of Djs who seemed to have dissolved into ether from whence they came, but are now popping up, reanimated, on posters around town.

The Orb and Dave Seaman; spinning different sides of scintillating dance coin; both performing on one night, in Liverpool city centre, must surely be sign that those of us of a certain age, secretly gyrating round sitting room floors, are seething out of closet to dance delirious once again.

For me, The Orb is consummate connection between old and new, missing link which evolved prescience of King Tubby, using new science, into superlative surreal sentience, stealing shiny snippets of life, from music, words and nature, spinning subatomic particles of song, stitching siren call. Pirates of privacy, libertarian magpies, The Orb did what I dreamt of, dissected, deranged, distorted, redistributed and re-disseminated, order rendered to chaos, revised, re-born; electronics used as improvisational instrument, as well as compositional tool; hinting at Hillage psychedelia, spun with Science Fiction, educated by Eno erudition, deviated by deepest drum and bass; drawing dreamscapes with electrons; fabricating fantastical landscapes from air; cognisant ambient poised on pinnacle of egalitarian perfection.

The Orb feel their way into your brain, tentacles of tunes trickling, tickling, lighting neural pathways, while Dave Seaman circumvents such niceties, plugging power source straight into limbic system, blowing basal brain, direct connection from nerves to feet. One of my favourite DJs for his impeccable musicality, sensitivity and ability to build mood, captivate from first note, his selections, melodic progressive trance, torn by Techno, with mysterious mystical, darker or quirky edge, perfectly suit my personality and taste, his mixes on Global Underground, Audio Therapy and Renaissance, radiantly submersive, slightly subversive, emanate an aura which envelops, inspires. Including some of my favourite electronic music makers, such as: Guy Gerber, Gui Boratto, Luke Chable and James Holden, it is Mr Seaman who I have to thank for two enduring favourites; the idiosyncratic Looky Thing by Slacker, with its bewitching, bouncing, sliding, grungy bass, sinister glockenspiel and alien speak spacey effects; and Pete Lazonby’s Sacred Cycle, luminous mindscape, sun shimmering over Ganges, transcendentally ethereal, riding swelling surge of bass, throbbing, growling, pulsing, travelling through troposphere, philosophising guru babble floating on cosmic winds.

Still spinning discs at home, it has been several years since I risked public exhibitionism, where dance is concerned, so two tardy transgressions in one night spells potential trouble.


First foray into murky past, the former Masque, now made over as East Village Arts Club. Though musty, fusty dilapidation has been dispelled by designer’s dream of eau de nil and distressed wood, the incongruity of this schizophrenic venue continues to niggle. Once again, drinks dispensed in glass at ‘posh’ bar, are banned by burly, black suited, dour bouncers at supposed barrier between restaurant and club. Decanted into plastic we are dismissively permitted to pass through unyielding doors, into depraved debauchery which demands such parental supervision. In the original Masque glass did not exist, a sensible policy as light was also nonexistent. Now plush and well lit as theatre lobby, encumbrances and incumbents in full view, there is no fear of falling or flailing into unknown, but I guess rules are rules. Frisson of feverish excitement at stumbling blind into Masque amphitheatre area has been dispelled by such stark clarity, but even though path ahead is clear, mystery of how The Orb are now has me shivering with anticipatory thrill, electrified to tantric tingle as door opens to floor filled with heaving bodies, in rapt abeyance to spectrally illuminated, elevated electro gods, at laptop controls.

Looking down from top bar at graduated, warmly swarming, seething snake pit, washed in incandescent glow of The Orb’s signature lucent backdrop, though hardly bathed in light, the room feels a little too shiny and bright and I can’t help but feel loss of seditious counterpoint between grimy surrounds and high technology, but there is enough spillage, sweat, and ecstatic synergy to overcome such niceties, stickily slinky acolytes simile for past excesses, though facsimile is not quite complete without condensation on ceiling, falling as rain of bodily fluids, and tinnitus inducing , heart fibrillating boom of unrestrained bass baffle. Space age mixing desk, dominating rear of room, mixer to mixer, feeding speakers, conducts clarity, previously unknown in these settings, to receptive neurons, firing up dormant synaptic connections, which in days of old might have thrilled to more hallucinatory excitement.

Age is relative, there are relatively young faces amongst them, but the crowd veers towards those of certain years, who previously may have been undistinguishable but are now marked by fate’s lottery; well to do dressed in understated designer replicas of clubbing days, those less fortunate in charity jumpers, those essentially unchanged, more restrained version of younger selves, the guy who gyrates by himself, in the corner at every rave, and one Peter Pan who never grew up, in full off planet, chemical suit cocoon. All still united by drug of dance.

Not cryogenically preserved, or remodelled by Science Fiction surgery, The Orb themselves, consisting of founding member Alex Peterson and later comer Thomas Fehlmann have grown older with dignity, reassuringly aged the 25 and a bit years since they first soothed addled addicts with come down ambient, dispensing ‘music as medicine’. With shaved egg head pate, neatly trimmed white moustache and beard, round spectacled, studiously performing musical micro surgery, live, wreathed in rainbow light, Alex Peterson has taken on persona which earned him the title ‘Dr’, while baseball cap hides Fehlmann’s follicular failings, practised hands of dextrously practised technician requiring no props.

Like proper grown up stars, in 2013, to celebrate their quarter of a century, The Orb released compiled retrospective of their Island releases, The Orb, History Of The Future which highlights how, despite ravages of age, time still hasn’t caught up with them musically; just as tonight’s performance proves them pioneers of electronic experimentation. Music has only scratched atoms from surface of electronica, heard its most primitive beat, there is infinite inner space still to be explored, The Orb’s shape shifting spaceship has been stealing a lead towards that micro universe event horizon, for many years.

Tonight they traverse time to reconnoitre with Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld (1991), Orbus Terrarum (1995), UF Orb (1992) and Orblivion (1997); titles; inspired by Blake’s 7, Orbis Terrarum, the first modern atlas, and pure wit; which in themselves indicate musical influences and direction.

Paterson and Fehlmann morphed to chimera, joined by invisible umbilical, work as one conjoined, intensely concentrated, improvisational whole, layering sound into scintillating swathes, seamlessly conjuring mirage of mood. Though they have been described as ‘come down’ artistes, The Orb’s extensive use of panning feels like invisible fingers piercing brain, prising open crenulations, mimicking psychotropic mind expansion, stretching narrow neural pathways to sweeping mind savannas. Disorientating as that might be, these are safe hands, experienced pilots of Proteus craft, take off and landing is always gentle, floating on clouds.

Dissolving reality, Spanish Castles in Space shimmers in on eerie strains of chill ionic winds, droplets of bass primordial throb, terraforming lush, dripping jungle of Plateau, organic symphony, awash with molecules, life pulsing into being, flooded with endorphins, lucid dream melting, disturbed by distant storm breaking on Outlands, ominous call menacing, prickling, brain racked by random memories restless, playing with new found voice in lilting Blueroom, dirt of grungy bass building to deeper dub, thrum at burbling hub of Toxygene, city of complexity, criss-crossed with conflicting lines of travel, octane fuelled, belching toxic oxygen, crashing into Towers Of Dub. The recorded version includes sample from Victor Lewis-Smith’s hilarious recording of his looking for Haile Selassie, Babylon And Ting spoof call to London Weekend Television, but tonight, lost in barrage of booming bass, though I can hear babble of Babylon, I am not sure what words are breaking up reggae sunshine fuelled, drum and bass beat, which is shaking legs and feet into involuntary movement, chiming Ting Ting stuck in groove, hypnotic.

With dub its dark matter engine, we hove into hyperspace on helicopter blades of UF Orb, jazzily improvisational, moving to space in between beat, dancing is the only option as crowd meld into one pulsating organism, moving as one, adding their own soundtrack of whoops and hollers, rising to cat calls with A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Universe (Loving You); one of my favourite song titles ever, taken from a BBC sound effects album for Blake 7. Moving to driving house beat, in rapturous, unrestrained flight, this spins sunlight round one of the more nakedly recognisable samples ‘stolen’ by The Orb, shrill Minnie Riperton; eventually replaced by sound alike; off kilter trance, which I think is played in same key as original but sounds slightly mutated, wavering imagined micro semitone at high pitched climax, making it even more other worldly piercing.

Perpetual Dawn rises, lifts off, ratcheting up Reggae beat, drowned in dub, rhythmically pertinent while luxuriating in warmth of lush synth, letting silent Assassin creep in; mesmerising mind probe of punchy repetition, maze of jumpy, jittery, racing, wired rhythms messing with the head. On record, incorporating unexpectedly plummy analogue synth sound, Perpetual Dawn, intentionally influenced or not, puts me briefly in mind of Pink Floyd.

As with Pink Floyd, in The Orb’s world pigs definitely fly but even they cannot stop time, so the ride must end, safely guided down by Fluffy Clouds, reassuring voice in the head which, while riding vapour, floating in vast unknown, is thin thread tethered to reality, which will reel you back to solid ground, however high you fly.

It has been a surreal night, reconnecting with a past I thought had died, and finding it just as energised and exhilarating as I remembered. Watching everyone wrapped in warm glow of ecstasy, I feel hope arise anew that dance has once again found its feet.


My feet were certainly dancing in anticipation of unforeseen treat, yet more beats; tripping through town to The Boutique, for Selador Record’s showcase featuring its instigators, Djs Steve Parry and Dave Seaman.

From Mol Teaser’s bawdy burlesque, as Stanley Street crosses over Victoria, in defiance of that monarch’s morals, corsets are dropped to boldly go where Mol might not dare, even barer, barely a thread between bouncing buttocks. Basement buried amongst such debased debauchery, I had thought Boutique was a lap dancing club and for all I know it may well boast poles. Descending into impenetrable fog of dry ice smog it was impossible to tell what the club might entertain on other nights, but apart from eminence of the Djs, promise of Funktion One sound system indicated this is a venue serious about dance, or exceptional den of iniquity, aural pleasure as important as oral.

Warmly fuzzy from fluffy clouds that wafted in our wake, wandering from The Orb, this dousing in dense storm clouds of freezer like chill, wrapped in clinging icy arms, is rather alarming, quantum of light reduced to few photons, each of us isolated by impoverished perimeter of sight, confined to boxes no more than a few feet square. Ghosts loom out of mists, spaces overlap, but with such limited view, the room might as well be almost empty. After heaving humanity at the Arts Club, this is coldness of alien space; even after time eyes cannot decipher mystery man on decks but music tells me it must be Seaman; flash of camera reveals vague image which seems to confirm this, slinking by his side a shadow, assumed to be Parry.

As smoke continues to belch, darkness intensifying rather than dispelling, this level of discombobulation perplexes senses, so though sound system is fulsome, deep and dirty, it looms from source unknown; without focus it loses sharpness. Since this is an unexpected outing, I have not had foresight to listen to latest releases from Selador, a label launched by Dave and Steve in 2013, but despite sensory deprivation, am immediately entranced, Dave’s music direct connection to primeval brain, irrepressibly engages limbs which twitch alive, Mexican wave through ether, sight unseen we are connected by primordial beat.

Suddenly this haze all makes sense, my own glowing bubble of sound, vibrantly alive, my own personal space in heaven, dancing to irrepressible beat Dave has lost none of his talisman tantalisation. Gritty, driving, deepest bass thrills, involuntarily invokes elemental emotion, tease of trance filters through firmament, celestial purity, angel in murky sea of surging passion, siren call spiralling though mysterious outer space, twinkling with jazzy percussion, growling spaceship throb plummeting into pulsating black hole, exceeding speed of light, exiting other side. Consummate manipulator of mood, swept up on his rollercoaster, Dave seamlessly weaves surreal, heart stopping ride, dark side of light, ethereal menace, dirtier side of delight, contradictions of his music thrills like no other, emanates insuppressibly ebullient energy, which invisible audience absorbs, to become one throbbing entity.

Unpractised feet aching on unsuitably high heels, I exit more than elated, euphoria reinstated, age defeated, foot-sore foot soldier, ready once more to be a fool for dance.

Listening afterwards to The Selador Showcase- First Edition on Soundcloud, I am smitten by the best dance release I have heard for a very long while; beautiful ugly, spacey, deep, intense as dark chocolate, daring, dirty beats, techno trance, truculent stormy, incandescent with love, so seductive it makes me weep with delight. Released on 28th April, this is one which I know will be on constant repeat.

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