Trailer Park

Beth Orton

Dedicated Records, 1996

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/13/1999

Less accomplished artists have tried to merge two different styles of music that are incompatible in order to achieve some sort of originality. Jazz and hip-hop, metal and classical music arrangements to a lesser extent and Christian and punk.

It brings to mind an episode of The Simpsons when eternally hungry Homer Simpson gets out a can of 'gum n' nuts,' the first snack ever to combine the two snacks. But when an artist is able to successfully merge two incompatible styles, you've got some magic. Take the inconceivable marriage of techno and folk.

Take into account, Suzanne Vega was one of the first mainstream artists to do this, and do it well with 99.9 F °, way the hell back in 1992 when techno and industrial were still very much underground. But in 1997, Beth Orton made a huge splash with an album that has sold barely 100,000 copies in the U.S.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

With little to no airplay, Trailer Park, wound up on many critics' "best of" lists. While the album itself is uneven, it shows Orton can play for both the folk and techno teams. Her wounded voice is distinctive and instantly memorable while at the same time drawing comparisons to Joni Mitchell and Suzanne Vega.

The techno side is just as accomplished. Helped by William Orbit (the one responsible for Madonna's best album of her career, Ray Of Light), spacy, ambient arrangements are all over Trailer Park.

The album begins with some distorted violins and enters with a funky beat-box beat of "She Cries Your Name." It grips you and never lets you go. But Orton's voice towers over the arrangements, so that you hear the full effect when she laments, "How long can this love remain?"

Unfortunately, the second song is a major pot hole. "Tangent" shows when the techno arrangement falls. The computer, moog-like space blips sounded like background music for my N-64. I'll forever associate this song as "The video game song."

Problems also occur midway through the album. As Orton's voice is intoxicating, it is also draining. Her limited range tends to make the mid-portion of the album seem like one continuous downer. If you don't have a nice cup of coffee next to you, it is likely you may nod off.

But nod off and you'll skip "Someone's Daughter," one of the more powerful songs on the album. And "Galaxy Of Emptiness" is one of the most beautiful closer songs to an album I've heard in years. Her vocals pierce you as she sings the lonely chorus, "There's a galaxy of emptiness tonight/a while galaxy of emptiness tonight."

Credit Orton for taking a huge risk. While Vega's 99.9 F ° was more of a side project to her other works, Orton is stuck with this genre, much like Tricky or Portishead. And as difficult as it is to marry two distinct genres, when she gets it right, as she does on two-thirds of this album, she gets it dead-on. If her next album can build on Trailer Park's best moments as well as iron out the weaker moments of the rest of the album, you've got a potential classic in the making.

Her accomplishments on Trailer Park have not gone unrewarded. Her next album, due very early this year, is certain to be one of the most anticipated albums of this year. Not bad for an artist who is about 400,000 short of a gold album.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 1999 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Dedicated Records, and is used for informational purposes only.