Concrete Disco on The Orb: Why I Love

Concrete Disco has recently released a new EP, Pull The Ladder and is set to head out on tour with electronic legends The Orb. Concrete Disco themselves have been labelled a band who delivers “punchy electropop for the end times that marries the dense claustrophobic atmospheres of latter-day Radiohead with the harder-edged euphoria of acts such as Overmono and the Chemical Brothers.” A perfect fit chill out space fit, to partner The Orb – check out Metallic Spheres In Colour with Dave Gilmour on board.

Jonny Wharton from Concrete Disco joins us At The Barrier to tell of the inspirational qualities of their touring partners, The Orb.

As a child of the 80s, I was relatively late to the party in being awakened to the existence of The Orb, 1991’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld having passed by my 8-year-old self unheard. It wasn’t until around 1998, perhaps the heyday of the ‘borrowed’ CD, that a friend lent me a copy of U.F.Off – a double-disc best-of compilation of their early work.

As the brooding intro of CD1’s first track, A Huge Evergrowing Pulsating Brain That Rules From The Centre Of The Ultraworld made its way out of my battered stereo, I could gradually hear a piece of electronic music’s development slotting into place. Though still In the first flush of my own embryonic musical enlightenment, I was already enamoured with the worlds of WARP, Ninja Tune et al, and this seemed to form a crucial context for that music, connecting the threads of early pioneers like Brian Eno, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, and Kraftwerk to the music I was immersing myself in.

As the sprawling compilation unfolded through the touchstones of 90s Orb output, I soaked up the music like a sponge. I was fascinated at how their placement of samples could transform the meaning in the words and melody, adding a new dimension to the music. The whole release was mixed like a DJ set with CD2 presenting reworkings of most of the tracks on disc 1, and this opened my eyes to the ways tracks could be blended, deconstructed, and rebuilt. On top of my first listen to signature tunes like Little Fluffy Clouds and Toxygene, I heard alternate and sometimes obscure versions of many others like Mickey Mars. Already well on the path to music obsession, this album sparked my intrigue in whole new avenues of exploration.

It would be a few years before I would be old enough to go out raving and could experience first hand The Orb in their natural environment as chillout champions and sunrise saviours. This would go on to cement their place in my heart and mind as both pioneers and savants of the field.

Eventually going on to make my own career in music, my affinity for the electronic artists of the 90s continues to influence my work, and certainly in the ethereal elements with my band, Concrete Disco, The Orb’s impact can be heard.

When a friend and long-time associate approached us earlier this year about supporting The Orb on their tour this Autumn, it was, of course, a no-brainer for us and seemed to represent something of a completing circle in performing with one of our formative influences. It’s somewhat surreal to be writing this gushing article about the band we are about to go out and play with, and I hope we can provide a worthy foil to them, without fangirling too hard!

Concrete Disco UK tour with The Orb Autumn 2023

2nd November Dreamland Ballroom, Margate

9th  Hangar 34, Liverpool

24th The Baths, Ipswich

25th Waterfront, Norwich

30th O2 Academy, Birmingham

1st December Quarter House, Folkestone 

Here’s Pull the Ladder from EP of the same name, played live earlier this year:

Our thanks to Jonny for his insights into the legendary outfit that cross the boundaries between Prog, Psych, Electronic and experimental music.

You can read more from our extensive archive of Why I Love pieces from a wide array of artists on an even wider array of subjects, here.

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