In the space of two albums and half a dozen singles, New Order has boldly established a distinctive identity grounded in the exuberant simplicity of its synth/guitar interaction. The lyrics remain a bit dour and, at times, obtuse, but there's an energy that liberates the music from the stultifying bonds of pessimist pop.

It's a sound somewhere between the coldness of Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark and the lushness of Roxy, laced with the inner tension of the Doors and with a few bows to Kraftwerk, the Byrds and the Velvet Underground.

Although there's a loose dance-floor esthetic to New Order, it's in no way proto- funk, much less the bleached Brit-funk so prevalent today. The sound of the latest album, "Power Corruption and Lies," is clear and precise; the overriding feeling is one of calculated layers of sound being simply recycled and slightly embellished.

Steve Morris' disciplined drums are a bit stiff at times, but there's a lovely elasticity to Peter Hook's bass playing. Bernard Albrecht's Byrdsian guitar and Gillian Gilbert's synthesizers form a subtle tandem, their delivery seldom fancy, but often surprisingly full. On "Your Silent Face," "Leave Me Alone" and "Age of Consent" in particular, their work is rich and enveloping, a pulsating swirl of hypnotically intertwining sound. Albrecht's fragile voice is probably the weakest link, but it carries its weight just enough for the music to thrive. ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUM NEW ORDER -- Power Corruption and Lies (Factory FACTUS12). THE SHOW NEW ORDER, Friday at 8 at the Ontario.