Not Waving, Drowning
Is this really the same guy who remixed The Cure, Seal, and Kraftwerk for live dance-party broadcasts everywhere? Surely, this can’t be the man who invoked the latest of Madonna’s nine cat-lives by producing Ray of Light. Because for all of his upbeat work for other artists, William Orbit’s own recordings — including the new Hello Waveforms — are decidedly more relaxed, downtempo almost to a fault.The “waveforms” name-checked in the album title might refer to sound, but Orbit here also seems inspired by water. From the opening track “Sea Green,” which echoes more than a few elements from Madonna’s “Drowned World,” the album features a constant tidal ebb and flow, lapping at and enveloping listeners like a calm sea. Over time, you realize there isn’t a single blip on this album’s radar, not a spike anywhere to raise and then lower BPMs or heart rates.
“Bubble Universe” is a failed attempt to recreate the warm warbles of Boards of Canada. “Spiral” brings the Sugababes on board and, no surprise, sounds like quiet-storm pop. No other guest spot (Finley Quaye, Jocelyn Pook, Orbit’s Strange Cargo bandmate Laurie Mayer) or track (with the exception of maybe “Who Owns the Octopus?”) generates much excitement here. You just have to hope that that was the goal.
While William Orbit’s reworkings of classical music set his 2000 album Pieces in a Modern Style on a predictable yet successful path, Hello Waveforms is ambient made formulaic by musical chance instead of by thematic choice. It’s entirely possible the album will steady and soothe you, but it has a better shot at leaving you feeling stranded, demanding more.