William Orbit has been performing music since the 1980s.
Among the many talented composers of contemporary electronic music, William Orbit is the master pioneer, and Emancipator is the rising young talent.
The publicity-reluctant Grammy Award winner William Mark Wainwright (known as William Orbit) has been writing and performing music since the early 1980s as part of the UK trio known as Torch Song. Soon thereafter, Orbit began a solo series of four CDs called Strange Cargo, culminating with the 1996 compilation, Best of Strange Cargos. In 1990 with band Bassomatic, Orbit had a big single with “Fascinating Rhythm.”
Over the years, Orbit has collaborated with a wide range of artists, including U2, Madonna (producing her Ray of Light CD), Beth Orton, Laurie Mayer, Finley Quaye, and radio personality Joe Frank (voice on “Montok Point”).
Musically, Orbit is a composer of ambient electronic music using his multi-instrumental talents with special gifts on guitar and electronic keyboards. As critic Melissa Piazza says, “This chill-out master constructs boundless soundscapes sewn together with lavish strings and sweet moves to create a trance-inducing experience that is cosmically epic, awe-inspiring, and spiritually enlightening.”
On one of Orbit’s special websites, www.orbitstreamcast.com, listeners can hear hours of free music. Its playlist offers variations of his well-known tracks, as well as unreleased and rare material. There is so much exceptionally good music in his library. For the neophyte, these are my top five picks.
1. “Water from a Vine Leaf” features the voice of UK folk singer Beth Orton. This pleasantly surreal music reminds me of the instrumental loop that plays on the pedestrian ramp connecting B and C terminals at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. A related instrumental refrain haunts the listener on “Water Babies.”
2. “She Cries Your Name,” with Beth Orton’s ethereal vocals and Orbit’s guitar, tells the story of a woman who can’t forget a guy. She keeps crying out his name … twelve times a day.
3. “Time to Get Wize” features the rap artist Divine Bashim, who reflects on the challenges of black urban life and encourages wise choices.
4. Ambient instrumental “You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers” represents Orbit’s more recent work on 2006 CD Hello Waveforms.
5. “Optical Illusions,” from the 2009 CD My Oracle Lives Uptown, continues with distinctively pleasant instrumental keyboards and subtle, jangling guitar echoing in the distance.
This outstanding young composer from the Northwest produces lush, ambient musical journeys featuring choral layers, horns, distinctive percussion, and American folk instruments including banjo, violin, and mandolin. The maturity and sophistication of his compositions are unexpected of a mid-20s artist. His best work can be found on Safe on the Steep Cliffs (2010), in which every track offers something unexpectedly delightful. Emancipator deftly varies percussion, changing rhythms while introducing a wide variety of musical arrangements and subtle effects. Here are my top tracks:
1. “Black Lake” reveals his sophisticated composing talents, with skillful changes of rhythm and alternating waves of acoustic and electronic elements.
2. “Hill Sighed” begins with echoing piano and a sitar/tabla tease, and then moves into a swirling mix of mellow horns, violin, and percussion.
3. “All Through the Night” is the perfect way to set the stage for nocturnal bliss with its cello, tablas, and keyboards.
4. “Old Devil” perfectly blends banjo, upright bass, acoustic guitar, and quiet horns.
5. “When I Go” is a moody reflection on going out on the town.
For a consistent dose of ambient electronic music, listen to Bruce Miller’s radio show Pirate Satellite on Saturdays, 9 a.m., on KRUU-FM 100.1. You can stream Fringe Toast on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. via www.kruufm.com.
To acquire an audio file of this review, go to www.kruufm.com. Join Andy Bargerstock’s Fringe Toast radio show every Wednesday from 8-10 p.m. on KRUU-LP 100.1 FM in Fairfield, and available worldwide via www.kruufm.com.
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