William Orbit is an extremely busy man when it comes to production, but his own solo artist work has taken something of a back seat in the meantime – this is his first record since the adaptations of classical works that became Pieces In A Modern Style back in 2000. As one of the recognised godfathers of ambient electronic music through his Strange Cargo albums, it’s difficult to begrudge him the opportunity to revel in what he does best once again – namely chillout music.
That’s not to dismiss his music as mood over content, for any close listen to his compositions has always revealed plenty to be going on in the ever-shifting textures, melodies and wave patterns that build each track. And so it is that Sea Green drifts onto the listener’s consciousness like an internal brain massage, intricate construction in the background but washed over by waves of synthesized sound, rather like water on a deserted beach. The composer keeps all this moving with a subtle yet fulsome bass and the slightest of drum tracks.
One of Orbit’s strongest qualities is his ability to conjure a dream-like state from so many interweaving lines that all complement each other, yet somehow don’t over-complicate things. As mood music to involve the listener it works extremely well, but becomes far more substantial when voices are added.
For this reason the Sugababes collaboration Spiral is key, drawing inevitable parallels to Orbit’s work with All Saints. Although more introverted than 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 a more than pleasant sky blue haze. Surfin’ works really well, adding a close-in guitar to the far-away keyboard sounds. The X-file hints of the title You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers is interpreted by a lightly melancholic guitar melody. Who Owns The Octopus – not sure where that came from! – features a pleasingly distorted line, threatening to beef up the music a bit.
This is one of the principal criticisms of the record – the intricate lines are admirably realised, but now and then a more solid drum beat or hook wouldn’t go amiss, like They Live In The Sky only even more so. As would a few more vocal additions – while Bubble Universe features nicely murmured, dreamy vocals from Orbit’s old-time collaborator Laurie Mayer, a track like Fragamosia would benefit hugely from more vocalising.
However, this music sounds lovely on pretty much any audio equipment, from the most basic laptop speaker to the widest sound picture of a home cinema. And that’s where Orbit really succeeds – his consonant harmonies and blue textures will bring tranquillity to even the most frantic day.