Album Reviews

William Orbit – Pieces In A Modern Style

(Warner) UK release date: 17 January 2000

William Orbit - Pieces In A Modern Style William Orbit might be well known as a megastar producer, the man who gave us Blur‘s 13 and Madonna‘s Ray Of Light. But this solo album sounds like neither of these.

Essentially, all on his own (he arranged, programmed, produced and performed, the album cover proudly tells us) Orbit has resurrected Beethoven, Barber, Handel and Ravel – and even given Gorecki the remix treatment.

We aren’t talking techno of course – this is not the sort of fluffy Europop clubby effort one might have expected. Okay, he’s used synthesisers where before there were string quartets and orchestras, but this is no crime.

His remix of Barber’s Adagio For Strings sticks fairly closely to its original style, with not so much as a beat thrown in. It is as if Orbit has recognised that these pieces are beautiful as they are, and any large scale tampering would only be detrimental. Handel’s Xerses is a case in point – you can almost feel the beat that has been left off.

This album, then, isn’t a house party essential, nor is it an attempt to fuse musical styles. Orbit is also known for trance music, and it is into this category, rather than classical or techno, that this album fits most snugly. This is background music to fall asleep to, and that isn’t a criticism.

It does, however, raise the question – what was the point? If the original pieces were indeed so perfect as to defy reinterpretation, why then has Orbit seen fit to release this album at all? It’s all very atmospheric, full of echoes and effects, but it’s as if the musical emotion has been prised away by some ghastly robot, intent on homogenising the world into a one-size-fits all feeling.

Personally I’d rather have Pieces In A Traditional Style – bring back the orchestras before Ludwig and Sam start to spin in their graves.

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More on William Orbit
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William Orbit: “What I want is a musical experience, not a software hacking experience” – Interview
William Orbit – Hello Waveforms
William Orbit – Pieces In A Modern Style