By Paul Rodgers
CALGARY – The origin story of Hamilton, Ontario duo Rich Oddie and Christina Sealey’s dark and experimental electronic music project Orphx dates back to the early ‘90s. Shaping their sound through various stages of development, the hypnotic and dark act has morphed from their early industrial style to their more techno oriented efforts on labels like Adam X’s Sonic Groove Records.
Throughout the ‘90s, they recorded all of their music on a four track, but by the early 2000s they became able to make digital recordings with computer software like Fruity Loops, Cool Edit, and later, Ableton Live.
“In the beginning, we would simply layer sounds over top of drum machine rhythms or sequence our sounds using MIDI and a very basic sequencing program called Master Tracks but as the software became more sophisticated, we developed a tighter rhythmic sound,” recalls Oddie.
“Software has also provided us with new sound making tools such as granular synthesis, and excellent emulations of vintage synths, drum machines, and effects that would otherwise be very difficult to find or afford,” he adds. “At the moment, there is such an incredible range of powerful software and hardware. When we started, we had very little money and only a small selection of tools.”
The ever-evolving nature of musical technology has also impacted not only their studio work, but also the way in which they approach their live performances.
“We have also been using modular synth systems for the last ten years,” Sealey explains, “which has brought back the hands-on manipulation and improvisation of our early sound.”
The machinist precision of Orphx’s live performances, such as those captured from Montréal’s MUTEK festival and the legendary Berlin based nightclub Berghain, makes it truly astounding that they utilize so much improvisation. But, after nearly 30 years working together, that level of cohesion has become second nature.
Beyond the ways in which developments in music hardware and software have shaped their sound, Sealey says that they “draw inspiration from both current political and personal conflicts,” adding that their work is also influenced by Oddie’s background in philosophy and politics and her background in fine art.
Oddie adds, “Books, and sometimes films, are often a source of inspiration for the ideas behind the music, and these ideas are usually connected to current events. These ideas are conveyed in the titles and samples that we use.”
The duo is currently working on a new LP that will be released on Sonic Groove in autumn of this year.
“These tracks are based in part on sounds created during our practices for recent live sets and are all quite rhythmic, whereas our recent full length album was a bit more diverse and story-oriented,” says Sealey.
Oddie adds that they are also working on a reissue of some of their older material from the ‘90s, following the recent reissue of their early tapes on Mannequin and Hospital Productions. Oddie also has a new 12-inch coming soon from his solo project Ontario Hospital.
See Orphx live at Terminus: Shockwave, which runs at Dickens Pub from July 27 to 29 [Calgary]Dickens Pub, Orphx, Techno, Terminus, Terminus: Shockwave