William Orbit: Pieces in a Modern Style

orb-piams.jpg (14k) William Orbit: Pieces in a Modern Style
(Maverick - 2000)

William Orbit's name has been carried through ambient & electronic regions via his ever-popular Strange Cargo series. But fans wondered if Orbit was unloading them when he strode into the mainstream, using his noted production skills to turn on Ray of Light by Maverick Records head Madonna...

Orbit returns to the ambient fold with Pieces in a Modern Style, a generally successful exercise in "something old/something new".

I must immediately confess to having very little "classical" background with which to compare the originals, so basically all pieces are taken at face value. With a variety of treatments, the tracks are reworked in a more-or-less reverent manner, with little excessive modernication.

The opening number is a very straight-seeming "Adagio for Strings" (9:34) by Samuel Barber; plaintively soaring layers of gorgeous stringsounds trace wispy figures in a melancholy sky. John Cage's "In a Landscape" (2:57) receives a more overtly "electronic" treatment as simple keyboard riffs are backed by pulsing bass, shimmering bleeps, strumming acoustic guitar and sweeping synthetic violins. Backed by a faint pattern of sequenced notes, "Ogive Number 1" (Erik Satie) is a warm ebb-and-flow of densely wavering soundstreams accentuated with occasional hazy blips.

Theremin-like strands quaver through Pietro Mascagni's "Cavelleria Rusticana", dancing with an infectuously high spirit. Maurice Ravel's "Pavane pour une Infante Défunte" is rendered in delicate (almosy cheesily so) tones and occasionally backed by various electronic drifts. As if coming from some primitive analog synth, "L'Inverno" by Antonio Vivaldi is presented in twinkling electro-notes, intertwining in baroque patterns.

More overtly altered than the rest, (and backed by distant thunder and tinkling chimes) Ludwig van Beethoven gets a hyper-warbly treatment, as his "Triple Concerto" picks up shifty beats, then begins to waver in increasingly annoying, headache-inducing rings. More soothing, "Xerxes" by George Frideric Handel simply wafts in a haze of e-piano and strings.

Henryk Górecki is twice-represented; his lovely "Pieces in the Old Style 1" dips and soars with subtle majesty, then is injected with buzzing/echoing modern electronics which are rejoined by the orginal swells. Opening on blippy spacesounds, "Pieces in the Old Style 3" softly pirouettes amid gentle tonal processions, synth haze and atmospheric thunder. Beethoven gets another (more palatable, IMO) turn as "Opus 132" is straightforwardly transcribed into modern synthpassages of layered beauty.

For the those aching for some real electronic re-energizing, an accompanying 14-minute-long EP tosses two remixes of Barber's "Adagio for Strings" square onto the dance floor. Ferry Corsten skillfully melds the original classical strains with classic-techno beats. ATB delivers a more-pounding alteration, adding a few new synth twists atop determined rhythms and e-violin. If Orbit's reworkings aren't enough to spin a purist's head, these two assuredly will!

Pieces in a Modern Style makes for a tough call; true classical enthusiasts may find too much Orbitization, while more electronic-minded Orbit fans may find too little. Coming from somewhere in the middle, I definitely enjoy the blend, especially given the differing treatments throughout (with a noted exception). An 8.4 for these mostly serene reinterpretations. 8-4.gif
This review posted May 29, 2000

AmbiEntrance © 2000-1997 by David J Opdyke (except CD cover art, rights retained by original owners).