Hello Waveforms is an apt title for William Orbit’s seventh full-length release, but perhaps it should have been called Goodbye Relevance. Devoid of a track as immediate as “Water From A Vine Leaf,” the album is distilled down to Orbit’s basic, knob-twirling ambience but stripped of any and all personality. Tracks like the pleasurably spacey “Sea Green” are filled with Orbit’s familiar, decades-old analog-marries-digital sound samples, but they beg for a voice as strong as that of his former muses Madonna and Beth Orton. Orbit’s work on Blur’s 1999 album 13 proved he could be as negligible a studio presence as an able but anonymous studio engineer. “Surfin” sounds like the blueprint for a brilliant pop song, hinting at the greatness of Orbit’s work on Ray Of Light, but it’s just that—a blueprint. He may have laid the foundation, but Madonna and Pat Leonard built the tower, filling the space with gobs of potent imagery and melodies. (Orbit recently revealed that he’s in possession of an unreleased cover of ABBA’s “Like An Angel Passing Through My Room” that he recorded with the Swede-loving super star; if not for some inevitable legal red tape, the track could have rendered this album at least worth listening to.) Several small-time artists lend their voices to Hello Waveforms but none match Orbit’s soundscapes quite as well as Madge—Sugababes fare best on “Spiral,” but Kenna’s non-hook gets lost in a mesh of ambience on the very same song. To his credit, it’s not Finley Quaye’s guitar-work that saves a track like “Who Owns The Octopus,” it’s what Orbit does with it; given the right material to work with, he can be a shining star.
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