Music

Beth Orton: The Other Side of Daybreak

Alison Wong

Beth Orton

The Other Side of Daybreak

Label: Astralwerks
US Release Date: 2003-09-02
UK Release Date: Available as import
Amazon
iTunes

The Other Side of Daybreak is a nearly new album. It comes as the sequel to Beth Orton's third studio album, Daybreaker (2002), in the form of a collection of remixes, retakes, alternative b-sides, and as is often the case with sequels, what some might call leftover ideas. One has been conditioned to approach such works with a healthy dose of skepticism, where the ultimate judgment rests upon two fundamental questions: Is the material of inferior quality to its predecessor and, regardless of quality, is the material significantly different for the consumer not to feel ripped off?

This latest album consists primarily of two musical sounds, electronic and acoustic, that are representative of the identity crisis that Orton has developed of late. The dichotomy is more apparent than ever here with tracks that are strictly either folkie studio outtakes or electronic remixes and this seems to be Orton's defiant answer to those seeking to categorize her music. Unfortunately, the impression it projects is not so much one of freedom of expression and exploration, but one of intensified uncertainty that lacks the raw quality of her debut album, Trailer Park, and the emotional intensity of her second album Central Reservation.

Orton offers five remixes from Daybreaker on this new album. While "Thinking about Tomorrow" easily stood out as one of the best tracks on Daybreaker, the dub on The Other Side by the International Peoples Gang stands, literally, on the other side. The makeover is bland, culminating in six minutes of mind-numbing drum and bass riffs and random electronic bleeps that pass over you in a wash of dreary sounds drab enough to make even a rainy Sunday seem bright. Four Tet's roots-tronica versions of "Daybreaker" and "Carmella" are, by contrast, canny ruminations of the originals with some tight interplay between Orton's vocals and electronic loops that do more than just rehash. "Anywhere", remixed by Two Lone Swordsmen, spits out electro pulses in an ambient air that conjures up images of driving aimlessly late at night along silent roads. Exactly. It may be soothing, but it takes you nowhere. The remix by Roots Manuva of "Daybreaker" is just downright silly. Outfitted in hip-hop style beats with contrasting vocals between Orton's wispy singing and Roots Manuva's rapping, the result is laughable.

The acoustic tracks are arguably what make this album worth listening to. They unearth the folkie side of Orton and stand out as sonically evocative and emotionally gratifying tracks that expand the imagery of her lyrics and allow you front row access to the finely tuned nuances of her exquisite vocals. The first is the remake of the Five Stairsteps' 1970 classic soul hit "Ooh Child". Stripped down to its barest components, Orton's somber voice lingers over each syllable under the gentle pickings of her acoustic guitar played at a brooding tempo. "Ali's Waltz", the counterpart to "Ted's Waltz" from Daybreaker, is an intimate ballad with touching lyrics "I heard that love is a verb" complimented by a sparse yet refined guitar accompaniment by Ted Barnes. The heart-wrenching singular highlight track of the album is the live version of "Concrete Sky". Co-written with Johnny Marr (there are obvious tell-tale signs), and recorded this time without Ryan Adams, this simplified version performs a far superior job of doing justice to the evocative lyrics: "And there's a concrete sky / Falling from the trees again and you know now why / It's not coming round too soon, it's harder than a heartbreak too / It's tough enough what love will do".

There are some real gems hidden in here, though the jumbling of genres and quality makes for an album that sounds altogether ill at ease. This is an album probably best reserved for existing Orton fans and it's unlikely to garner her many new fans. As a sequel, it doesn't rate as highly as Daybreaker and as an album, despite some spectacular acoustic performances, it wouldn't be unfair to say that this is her poorest attempt yet.



Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.