Beth Orton - Weather Alive Music Album Reviews

Beth Orton - Weather Alive Music Album Reviews
The eighth album from the English songwriter is the best work of her career. Soothing, immersive, and self-produced, it conjures a dreamlike atmosphere with songs that spiral out into the ether.

While writing Weather Alive, Beth Orton noticed the way the sound of her piano—a used, soot-filled, and possibly haunted instrument she purchased at Camden Market—would fill the house while her kids were at school. “Not to complain,” she recently told The Guardian, “but motherhood is lonely.” Playing for hours, she inhabited these solitary exercises, allowing the songs to become vessels for memories, methods of communicating with distant versions of herself. In “Friday Night,” she recalls formative years spent self-medicating with alcohol and reflects on some friends who never broke the habit. Her parents, who died while she was a teenager, appear in a song called “Lonely.” Near the end of it, she sings the title 12 times in a row in a cracked whisper, until the syllables sound as natural as do-re-mi.

These are fragile, isolating moments, and fittingly, Weather Alive is the first of Orton’s eight records that she self-produced. And while she has stated the experience of listening to it with other people has been “excruciating,” the music creates a completely different effect when opened up to the world: It is immersive, soothing, and communal. Surrounded by an ensemble of musicians who tend to elevate every record they appear on—drummer Tom Skinner, multi-instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily, bassist Tom Herbert, and saxophonist Alabaster dePlume—Orton lets each song remain true to its origin as a solitary spiral. Only now she invites more people to stand alongside her, following her paths to their own ends.

The spiritual predecessors are other transformative records defined by their atmosphere—Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden. On first listen, more than any one song, you will most likely be struck by individual sounds and textures. As a pianist, Orton gravitates toward dark, silvery cobwebs of melody, repeated motifs that drift in and out of the light. “Friday Night,” an early highlight, feels a bit like a folk song—maybe “After the Gold Rush” set to the tempo of a plane picking up speed along a runway at night—but Orton sounds too moved by its rush of memories to stick to the melody. Letting the words echo through its descending chorus, her voice breaks at just the moment you expect it to take flight, drawing attention to how she sounds at her most ragged and lost.

As a singer, Orton has never sounded more attuned to her material, and her melodies have never felt more transportive. When she introduced herself in the ’90s, she developed a reputation for bringing a tender, human touch to the UK’s burgeoning electronic scene. Because she found sanctuary as a teenager in discos and raves, it was only natural for her to bring the same level of intensity when she collaborated with artists like William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers. More than any record she has made since that decade, Weather Alive brings to mind these early collaborations, her gift for blending genres and their associated scenery. In the past, the menacing, downcast aura of “Forever Young” might have been a trip-hop experiment fit for dimly lit lounges and clubs. Now she embraces a seasick, live-sounding approach, characterized by the grain of her singing and the hypnotic pulse of her bandmates’ performance.

Orton’s writing, too, has grown more elusive. She has spoken in interviews about her diagnosis with temporal lobe epilepsy, a condition she is reluctant to describe in much detail beyond its resulting seizures and memory problems. The lyrics on Weather Alive, which occur in bursts and fragments, often circle around these types of disembodying experiences. “I have lived as a satellite,” she sings. “I saddled up/I settled up/I don’t sit right.” Other songs seem designed to capture and prolong brief portraits of serenity, a practice that might feel counterintuitive to someone more prone to meditating on darkness. “Almost makes me want to cry,” she sings repeatedly in the title track. “The weather’s so beautiful outside.”

The lyrics set a scene, but the landscapes tend to form gradually with each element of the production: washes of synths and wordless backing vocals, bursts of electric guitars and flickering percussion, slow drone of a saxophone. When she drifts from the narrative in “Weather Alive” to explore meaning beyond words—“Something like, something like, something like,” she sings around the five-minute mark, as if instructing her bandmates to follow her lead—you start to consider each song as an improvisation: a conversation that could drift into tears or laughter, personal revelation or total silence, depending on the mood.

This nebulous approach has always been central to Orton’s music, which defied categorization from the beginning. In a 1999 interview, she seems exhausted and uncomfortable trying to pinpoint her genre: “Maybe I’m sort of folk-soul-blues-jazz…,” she says, letting her voice trail off into a series of comic, unintelligible syllables. When the interviewer starts asking about specific influences, she changes the subject immediately, noting she just saw Madchester group the Happy Mondays play the other night and they were pretty good. They also seemed a bit tired, she added, acknowledging it was near the end of a long tour for them.

It’s the type of observation a fellow musician is uniquely qualified to make, but it’s also one that Orton seems to focus on, with something resembling obsession, more than two decades later. Listening to Weather Alive, you get the sense that each song is inextricable from the time it was made, the emotions surrounding it, the room where it was written, the view outside the window, the initial response from each collaborator. The atmosphere of a particular song, the quality that allows it to fill a space, she suggests, is dependent on each of these factors. The most upbeat song on the record is called “Fractals,” and its lyrics are uncharacteristically elaborate, as Orton wraps her head around the span of a lifetime and our ever-evolving perspective on love and dreams and hope. “In the hand of the unknown,” she sings, “I made an art out of believing in magic.” Weather Alive is a testament to her conviction, an eerily physical experience with the power to make believers of the rest of us.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Beth Orton - Weather Alive Music Album Reviews Beth Orton - Weather Alive Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on October 03, 2022 Rating: 5


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