Album Reviews

William Orbit – Hello Waveforms

(Sanctuary) UK release date: 20 February 2006

William Orbit’s an extremely busy man when it comesto production, but his own solo artist work has takensomething of a back seat in the meantime – this ishis first record since the adaptations of classicalworks that became Pieces In A Modern Style back in2000. As one of the recognised godfathers ofambient electronic music through his Strange Cargoalbums, it’s difficult to begrudge him the opportunityto revel in what he does best once again – namelychill out music.

That’s not to dismiss his music as mood overcontent, for any close listen to his compositions hasalways revealed plenty to be going on in theever-shifting textures, melodies and wave patternsthat build each track. And so it is that Sea Greendrifts onto the listener’s consciousness like aninternal brain massage, intricate construction in thebackground but washed over by waves of synthesizedsound, rather like water on a deserted beach. Thecomposer keeps all this moving with a subtle yetfulsome bass and the slightest of drum tracks.

One of Orbit’s strongest qualities is his abilityto conjure a dream-like state from so manyinterweaving lines that all complement each other, yetsomehow don’t over-complicate things. As mood music toinvolve the listener it works extremely well, butbecomes far more substantial when voices are added.

For this reason the Sugababes collaborationSpiral is key, drawing inevitable parallels to Orbit’swork with All Saints. Although more introvertedthan Pure Shores, Spiral makes an understated mark,and Keisha’s voice in particular has a melting,beautiful tone.

Meanwhile the rest of the album drifts past in amore than pleasant sky blue haze. Surfin’ works reallywell, adding a close-in guitar to the far-awaykeyboard sounds. The X-file hints of the title YouKnow Too Much About Flying Saucers is interpreted by alightly melancholic guitar melody. Who Owns TheOctopus – not sure where that came from! – features apleasingly distorted line, threatening to beef up themusic a bit.

This is one of the principal criticismsof the record – the intricate lines are admirablyrealised, but now and then a more solid drum beat orhook wouldn’t go amiss, like They Live In The Sky onlyeven more so. As would a few more vocal additions -while Bubble Universe features nicely murmured, dreamyvocals from Orbit’s old-time collaborator LaurieMayer, a track like Fragamosia would benefithugely from more vocalising.

However, this music sounds lovely on pretty muchany audio equipment, from the most basic laptopspeaker to the widest sound picture of a home cinema.And that’s where Orbit really succeeds – his consonantharmonies and blue textures will bring tranquillity toeven the most frantic day.

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More on William Orbit
William Orbit – My Oracle Lives Uptown
Interview: William Orbit
William Orbit – Hello Waveforms
William Orbit – Pieces In A Modern Style