Monday, July 26, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #76

Following last week's entry on one man/many band artist Jim Thirlwell, I thought it appropriate to choose another one-man musical whirlwind for this week's entry, although this one inhabits quite a different area of the musical universe than Mr. Thirlwell does.

William Orbit first appeared on the map in 1984 as one third of the trippily etheral synth trio Torch Song.  Their debut album, Wish Thing, kicks off with the simply amazing single "Don't Look Now," and from there flits and soars and sparkles with washes of melody and assorted bleeps and blorps.  It's not all as strong the opening track, but it is, on the whole, irresistable.  Laurie Mayer's honey-soaked vocals pull you right in, making the album's effect almost hypnotic: you'll hardly even realize that by midway through side two you're listening to a horribly wrong-headed stab at covering a cheesy 1970s radio staple ("Ode To Billy Joe").  That misstep aside, the album is well done and recommended.

A second album followed three years later, but by the time of Exhibit A's release, Orbit was becoming known as a capable producer, remixer and DJ.  Hence, the artist credit was changed to "Torch Song featuring William Orbit," and the music focused more on Orbit's synthesizer acrobatics and less on Mayer's vocals. Both Torch Song LPs are difficult to come by; neither has been reissued on CD to my knowledge.  Still, they're worth seeking out, especially Wish Thing.

The following year, Orbit dropped the Torch Song name and Laurie Mayer's vocals, and recorded an unnecessary cover of The Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way," found on the first record released under his own name, Orbit.  Getting that out of his system, he launched a dizzying catalogue of solo material under his own name and assorted pseudonyms (hello Mr. Thirlwell!) such as Bassomatic, Strange Cargo, and Electric Chamber.  A dozen or so albums appeared over the next ten years, mostly following the spirit of the original Torch Song material, but done in a more club-friendly dance style.  When not recording his own material, he was remixing others, working with names as well-known as Madonna, U2, and Prince.

In 1996, Orbit returned to the Torch Song name, bringing Mayer back into the fold, and recorded a new LP, Toward The Unknown Region.  Hailed by fans as his best work yet, its sound was more in line with his solo work than with either of the previous two Torch Song projects.

For this week's entry, we go all the way back to the beginning.  My brother stumbled upon the clip for "Don't Look Now" some months ago and brought it to my attention (thank you, Marc!), suggesting it might make for a good NW4NW entry. Indeed it does!

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