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

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.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.