I’m not a real big Madonna fan, and one of William Orbit’s big claims to fame is his involvement with her acclaimed 1998 album Ray of Light. And long before that, he was quietly producing a series of albums that were plotting icy courses through the techno-whiteout of minimal 80s ambient electronica. I’d never heard of him when I came across this album, but I liked the cover, so I gave it a listen. And I’m glad I did, because this album has become one of my favourites when I’m in the mood for some mood music. It reminded me of Air, in their Moon Safari era. From the first song, “Sea Green”, this album sets a tone of synthetic tranquillity and spacey ambience, which I’m a sucker for. And things just kept getting better with the delicate twinkling of “Humming Chorus” and the faux-theremin weave of “Surfin’”. By the time it got to “You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers” with its ticking starbursts of guitar and vibes trailing through a cosy cosmos, I was proclaiming this one of the best albums I’d heard in years (NB: I’m always doing that though). Then came “Spiral” with the first (and pretty much last) taste of vocals on the album. The vocals are supplied by Kenna and the Sugababes and they marry beautifully—never breaking the stride of the album. The lyrics are nothing special, but you don’t really listen to the words. When the chorus comes: ‘Nothing’s really sane but everything’s amazing’, things could be getting a bit new-agey, but when Kenna sings: ‘Oh, the ground beneath us trembles and we fall’, the melody is enough to lift you away from any silly notions like definitive meaning – who cares what they’re going on about, lets go visit Jupiter! The earthiness of hearing voices actually punctuates the album nicely in the middle, and you soon go back into orbit (I guess, literally) to enjoy the rest of the ride with the primarily instrumental “Who Owns the Octopus?”. And it’s nice to hear the odd voice (whether real or vocoder) throughout the remaining songs with “Oooh’s” and “Aaah’s” reminding you this is, and you are, still human after all.
~ DECOY SPOON