Trailer Park is as good a place to start as any.
Chris Jones 2009-03-06
Over ten years after its release, Beth Orton's mixture of folk and digital jiggery pokery sounds remarkably prescient, especially considering how common this now is, both within and outside the community. Trailer Park remains a classic of its type that has dated less than you may assume.
With uncanny timing this 'legacy edition' of Orton's debut arrives barely a month after the passing of one of her biggest influences, John Martyn. For Orton's proto folktronica, was a direct descendant of Martyn's blurring of genre boundaries. Indeed, before this album's release Beth had already recorded a Martyn classic, I Don't Want To Know About Evil, with William Orbit. Trailer Park's amalgamation of beats and acoustic guitars are buoyed up by Ali Friend's double bass and often accompanied by some very pastoral strings. While it adopts dance guises in places - utilising the producer of Primal Scream's Screamadelica, Andrew Weatherall - this is still a very English record.
The songs, in the main co-written with Friend and Ted Barnes (both now active in folk outfit Clayhill) are lyrically vague but musically like the equivalent of a big soft duvet. However the opening high water mark of She Cries Your Name (a version very different from the one she had recorded with co-writer, William Orbit) does tend to make everything that follows seem a tad pale. It's the more electronic tracks that have fared best over the years such as Tangent, Touch me With your Love or the closing ten-minute epic, Galaxy Of Emptiness. On quieter tracks the tentative nature of Orton's voice, while often seeming a little flat, displays a haunting tremulousness that sets her apart. Her reading of the Weill and Mann classic, I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine, shows off her guileless vocals to brilliant effect. Only on the poppier Don't Need A Reason or Someone's Daughter does she go badly wrong.
The bonus disc gives us the b-sides to the album's singles as well as the Best Bit EP. All are fine additions except for a rather ham-fisted duet with Terry Callier on Fred Neil's Dolphins. But the real gem is the version of Paris Sisters' I Love How You Love Me, recorded for the soundtrack to Mojo. It's dark country twang could be from a David Lynch film.
For a generation of clubbers Orton's debut was seen as a pinnacle of trip hop-influenced, late night chilling: it certainly secured her reputation and won two Brit nominations into the bargain. But her writing skills and voice were to both improve immensely over the course of another five albums. But if you're new to her work, Trailer Park is as good a place to start as any.