William Orbit

Hello Waveforms

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Producer, performer, and composer William Orbit returns to recording his own projects after a six-year hiatus. Pieces in a Modern Style, his reading of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, was a popular and chillout-room smash in 2000. Orbit pioneered a style of recording and producing that blended progressive house with ambient and ethereal atmospherics. That style is signature and has graced everything he's touched -- check Madonna's Ray of Light album or his own Strange Cargo 2 for a taste. So let's get something straight from the jump: there is nothing new here at all. In addition, the scene that would have embraced this recording as a bible for ambient house six to ten years ago has gone the way of all quaint trends that people are all but ashamed to admit they were a part of. That said, the music taken on its own merit nets this: Hello Waveforms is a wonderful listening experience. As is to be expected, dreamy guitars lilt and sway as synths and steady hypnotic beats create a shimmering soundscape that brings space and time to a virtual stop. Orbit appropriated Madame Butterfly for the gorgeous "Humming Chorus." Classical motifs and ambient music gather together and weave a nocturnal sonic sea, as gentle keyboard waves swell and lilt. Orbit collaborates with the Sugababes -- with Kenna singing lead vocals -- on the sensual single "Spiral." Laurie Mayer from the Strange Cargo period is here vocally on "Who Owns the Octopus," which also stars Finley Quaye on acoustic guitar. She also contributes her gorgeous voice to "Bubble Universe." "Surfin" actually employs piano counterpoint with synthesizers, and it's seamless and slightly spooky. "Fragmosia" stars Caroline LaVelle and Jocelyn Pook on strings, hovering above the drum and synth programming and creating a tension to be sure, but it's a deeply romantic one. "Firebrand" actually hosts winds and brass instruments as well as a vibraphone. It seemingly takes forever to get going (the track is over six minutes long), but there is no hurry. Tiny melodies and modes float by on the way to the rhythm tracks; when they finally arrive, one is brought to a kind of ecstatic tranquility -- especially on headphones. The bottom line on Hello Waveforms is that it may seem dated to terminal hipsters, but for everyone else it is small yet exceptionally well crafted. Its beauty and aesthetic pleasure come from a seduction of the senses. It is utterly drenched with those elements that appeal to pleasures known and unknown. So, while Orbit's style may be familiar, the substance is what matters. Orbit follows his own muse and Hello Waveforms is a sensory expression of that encounter.

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