Beth Orton

Best Bit EP

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Best Bit is a masterpiece in miniature, a four-track EP of stunning vision and depth. Beth Orton's first substantial release since her groundbreaking debut album, Trailer Park, it moves away from the electronic textures of her previous work to forge a more organic compound of folk, dance-pop, and jazz. The title track, with its loose, swinging trip-hop rhythms and treated background vocals, is closest in spirit to the album, but by the second cut, the evocative "Skimming Stone," Orton is in uncharted territory, juxtaposing moody piano jazz with spaced-out guitar textures. The revelation of Best Bit, however, is the record's second half, a pair of breathtaking duets with singer Terry Callier: the first, a cover of Fred Neil's "Dolphins," represents folk-jazz fusion at its finest and most eccentric, with Orton's ethereal presence matching perfectly with Callier's warm, soulful croon. No less wonderful or touching is the closing "Lean on Me," a Callier original featuring Orton's most impassioned vocal turn to date -- proof positive that under her remote electronic rhythms there beats a fragile human heart.

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