Spend an hour in the company of Canadian techno royalty as Orphx mix our latest podcast.
Canadian duo and former Juno Plus interviewees Orphx provide their fourth EP for Adam X’s Sonic Groove label, and in the process muddy the waters. Preceding releases on the label saw Richard Oddie and Christie Sealey extricate themselves from their industrial approach and focus instead on their own vision - and a bleak one at that – of club techno. On this occasion however, the lines are blurred. “Cut Through” does have the same kind of cold, detached bleeps that made “Black Light” such a malevolently addictive listen, but they unfold over a broken beat and razor sharp percussion. The key difference becomes clear as the track progresses; while the other EPs had a clean, austere sound, the introduction of a murderous, distorted bassline on “Through” makes it messier, more abrasive and like a halfway house between the Sonic Groove releases and their work for Hands.
In the middle of the summer a few years ago, a record by an act called Orphx was released on Sonic Groove. Orphx was not a household techno name, but the fact that Division was released on Adam X’s label and contained a remix by Surgeon brought them to the techno community’s attention.
Richard Oddie and Christina Sealey have been making music together for the best part of two decades, but despite having 10 albums to their credit, it is only in the last two years that the techno community became aware of Orphx’s magic. The reason for this is a series of EPs issued on Adam X’s Sonic Groove label that consisted of hypnotically dark, menacingly understated grooves. More club-focused than their previous works, Black Light and Traces in particular were inspired meetings of the duo’s abstract textures and an adherence to repetition that flowed with a uniquely addictive viscosity. So does their latest album make the leap into the techno sphere?
In many ways, Radiotherapy embodies what every techno album should strive for: rather than delivering a series of dance floor bangers, it sees Orphx focus on stepping rhythms, less direct than the Sonic Groove releases. But more importantly, it’s the duo’s exploration of texture that really impresses. “Compulsion” is a case in point; based on shuffling 808 drums, the visceral bass and eerie bleeps allow Orphx to provide their own take on old school electro. Blips and bleeps are also audible on “Radiotherapy 1″, but they are set to a droning soundscape so cold and alienating that it makes Throbbing Gristle sound like a bundle of laughs, while “Contamination” sees them tease out incendiary bass tones to a drizzling percussive backdrop.
At times, it’s almost too much, and the drilling noise on “Tensile” sounds like a patient having a tooth removed at the dentists. But this is only a minor digression and when Orphx’s cavernous, swarming acid, chilling strings and recoiling basslines take hold on “Lost Again” and “Radiotherapy 2″, such concerns fade into insignificance. With so many techno producers trying their hand at abstract sounds, it is ironic that one of the year’s best techno albums should come from industrial veterans.