Beth Orton – Kidsticks
Listening to the rolling, clamorous bass and electronic kicks of Kidsticks’ opening tracks, listeneres may wonder whether they have mistakenly picked up the work of another artist, rather than folktronica veteran Beth Orton’s new album. So different is this new release from the decades-spanning body of work that it follows, many will be surprised that Orton’s long career started amid the 90s electronica scene, where she lent her distinctive voice to such names as William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers. Here, then, is a return to Orton’s roots, and an accomplished one at that.
Having decamped to California from her native Norfolk, Orton produced Kidsticks with the help of Andrew Hung (from psychedelic electronic outfit Fuck Buttons) in Los Angeles. Between Hung’s influence, evident in the heavy use of synth and distorted bass throughout, and Orton’s eye for catchy rhythms, this is an album perfectly suited for strolling through a sun-bleached metropolis like LA. In this vein, Kidsticks opens with a bombastic and audacious brace of tracks in Snow and Moon; the former’s carnival drums and the latter’s progressively building pace set the tone for much of the album.
This fearlessness to explore new sounds and styles runs throughout Kidsticks. Orton touches on a broad range of electronic styles including electrofunk in the punchy kicks of 1973 and dream pop through Dawnstar’s airy, synth-draped vocals. Although the themes of Orton’s seventh studio album don’t break any new ground (longing and loss recur throughout Kidstick’s ten tracks) they are couched in lyrics that are fresh enough not to detract from the overall experience. There are even a few impactful messages to be found, for example in the melancholia-tinged Falling where Orton proclaims: “Now my phone book is filling up with dead friends / who would answer if I called them.”
Forays into unfamiliar (or long untouched, depending on how you view Orton’s long musical history) territory can be risky, but the singer has lovingly embraced her roots in Kidsticks. Despite a slight sagging in pace towards the tail end of the album, this is a commendable and refreshing effort from an industry veteran.
Kidsticks is released on 27th May 2016, for further information or to order the album visit here.
Watch the video for A Wonderful Life here: