As Orphx, Rich Oddie and Christina Sealey have spent decades spreading a unique and progressive form of techno birthed from the duo's early passion for industrial. The Hamilton, Ontario group's music video for "Molten Heart," premiering today on The FADER, is taken from a new album Pitch Black Mirror. It's a hypnotizing slideshow of image fragments, processed into an impressionistic oblivion. Check that out above, and below, read an email interview with Orphx about their origins, longevity, and how the music reflects the uncertainty and fear in our current age.
What did the Canadian techno scene sound like when you started, and how did Orphx fit in? How did living in an industrial city like Hamilton affect your sound?
When we started the project in 1993, we were primarily influenced by industrial music. At this time there was a vibrant rave scene in Toronto and Hamilton, and we were regularly going to parties and discovering techno. Soon, we began combining these influences and we’re still exploring that fusion. For many years, we were more closely connected to the industrial scene in Europe and had little contact with the techno scene. That has changed since we started working with Sonic Groove. In the last few years, the techno scene in North America has become more open to our kind of sound and now there are many more opportunities to perform.
Living in Hamilton has influenced our work. We’ve been inspired by some of the unique features of the area, including the forests and conservation lands just outside the city. Although many have been torn down or cleaned up, Hamilton also has many abandoned industrial sites and we explored many of these when we were younger. The look and feel of those places, decaying and overgrown with vegetation, definitely resonated with the music that we were listening to and making.
How have you managed to keep your creative output as Orphx fresh and progressive for 23 years?
We have a tendency to keep changing our focus and trying out new techniques and ideas. We both enjoy a wide variety of music, visual art, films, and books, and these different influences inform the music that we make and push us in new directions. I think we also get easily bored by following the same path and we try to challenge ourselves by learning new tools and trying out new ideas. The latest album was an attempt to bring in new elements, like the prominent use of vocals, and an effort to combine many of the different phases that we’ve passed through over the last 23 years.
You've said that the album's title is about moving through uncertainty. What are your thoughts, hopes, and fears for how your communities address uncertainty, especially given the results of the U.S. election, going forward?
Our album title refers to this idea of uncertainty, yes. We also talked about the blackened mirror image in terms of the U.S. election campaign, because it quickly became clear that Trump is a demagogue who is amplifying and reflecting back some of the worst impulses and fears of the American people: a disregard for facts and reason, narcissism and the cult of celebrity, and the demonization of marginalized social groups. We are very concerned about the election result. It demonstrates that many people are sick of the lies and manipulation from career politicians but it is very doubtful that Donald Trump will improve people’s lives or challenge government corruption.
It is particularly troubling that his election was at least partially based on drumming up hatred against racial minorities, and that he is so closely connected to virulent racists like Stephen Bannon. Equally troubling is the fact that he and many of his allies refuse to recognize climate change. His environmental policies, or lack thereof, will accelerate global warming. So we are at a dark point in time. But we are already seeing a great deal of public concern and action in response to this election. So we are hopeful that this will energize more people to speak out against racism, xenophobia, misogyny, and other expressions of hate. People need to mobilize now to prepare for the next four years and the repercussions into the future.