It’s been a series of happy accidents so far for 25-year-old Norwich songstress Beth Orton. And, she tells Alastair Mabbott, she wouldn’t
have it any other way.
‘it‘s just bollocks. really.‘ states Beth Orton. abruptly cutting offa train of thought with her favourite dismissive expression. ‘lt‘s been ﬁne so far without any planning. so i think l’ll leave it at that.‘
Beth Orton must really piss a lot of people off. She was never one of those star-struck kids who yearned for pop stardom from the cradle and spent their teens furiously honing their craft and cultivating A&R contacts. it was a chance meeting with dance-meister William Orbit that set the ball rolling. and only after contributing vocals to tracks by Orbit. The Chemical Brothers and Red Snapper did the Norwich-bom siren embark on the painful process of Ieaming how to play and sing live. in the smoky upstairs room ofa
Dean Street pub.
‘l‘ve never planned for anything that‘s happened. Any ofthe little bits. like meeting William. i met Red Snapper and they werejust geezers in the studio. they weren't Red Snapper the renowned trendy band. They were just geezers saying. “Do you want to put some vocals on that?" Obviously. they’re brilliant. but it wasn’t like any clever career move or anything. The same with the Chemicals. really. because they hadn‘t released anything that I knew of. ljust knew
of them as Dis at the Heavenly club.‘
Beth Orton: come and see her sketchings
Trailer Park. the solo debut that appeared in October. was one of l996‘s word-of—rnouth hits. Hard to classify. it showcases a variety of moods. from straightforward folky pop to more atmospheric. ethereal moments. The time she's spent working with dance producers can be clearly heard in places. but it shows up in subtle. entirely appropriate ways.
If hook~ups with such danecfloor luminaries was unexpected for a devotee of artists like John Martyn
and Nick Drake. Orton didn’t stop there. getting involved in a heavy. though aborted. rehearsal and demo situation with members of Primal Scream (Screanmdelica is one of her all-time faves). In yet another complete contrast. the producer of Trailer Park was Victor Van Vugt. a veteran of records by Tindersticks and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds. Orton's current band includes the drummer from acid-jazzers The Sandals. a stand-up bassist and a guitarist who is ‘pure folk‘. though he's warming to these Red Snapper chappies. it‘s this disregard of genre boundaries that gives the album much of its
Mentions ofthe album's title. and the American settings of its sleeve. provide a glimpse of the Ononian wit. ‘l wanted to call it Winnebago but I couldn’t because we didn’t get permission in time. That‘s just a word. there was no reason to call it Winnebago other than the fact that it's a brilliant word. Saying it with a Northern accent is best: Winne-baaay-go. Winne-baaay-go. And from there came the idea of photo shoots in trailer parks. and we thought the only place to do it properly and really take the piss is the Mojave desert. So we got the record company to pay for me to go to the Mojave desert and shoot the video. And we did it in a trailer park and I met loads of people who live in trailer parks — quite sad people — and I thought well. that just about sums it up. really. l'd better call my album Trailer Park.’
As she says. her modas operandi of leaving things to chance has worked for her so far. She knows where she's going now only in the sense that she's very determined to improve as a writer and singer. ‘Basically. it's just to do what i do and do it well and not to worry about making mistakes. because nothing's ﬁnished. At what point do you say something‘s finished? i don’t get het up about. “How can i put that out yet. it‘s not ready". Well. when is it going to be ready? Without wanting to be pretentious. it's all work in progress. it’s all a sketch. it'sjust that some bits of it are more coloured in than others.’ Ber/i Ol'imt plays La Belle Ange/e. Edinburgh. Mon 3
ramm— Finn and dand
Finland is to ye fore as the 880 880 embark on their Sibelius Experience, a series of five concerts which includes all seven symphonies and is conducted by the orchestra’s dynamic new chief Conductor Osmo vanska. With fellow Finn, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, the first concert brings the passionate Violin Concerto, the symphonic legend The Swan Of Tuonela and Symphony lie 1. Further Finnish factors for the series, so you can be completely and totally Immersed, feature the first tilt performance of Sibelius’s recently- discovered tone-poem The Wood
Osmo Vinskl: Finnlng ways with the baton
Nymph, a special evening devoted to the Symphony No 5 and a comprehensive Radio 3 guide to the symphonies.
With Vinskﬁ at the helm, the
series promises to be quite unmissable. Although, according to BBC Scotland’s Head of Music, Hugh Macdonald, ‘Vtinskti has a very lively range of interests across the repertoire, including contemporary music, as well as the classics’, it was his commitment to Sibelius and lesser known Scandinavian composers which brought international attention. ‘lle made a lot of pioneering discs, which began to make a big impact and over ten years with Finland’s Lahti Symphony Orchestra he showed a dedication and determination to make something work. iie also had the consistency which was exactly what we were looking for.’ . Originally a clarinettist, Vinska studied conducting at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki where fellow students included other stars such
as Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jukka- Pekka Saraste. ‘The Finns are very good natural musicians,’ says ilugh Macdonald, pointing out that Finland has the same population as Scotland but many more orchestras. For now, vanska will divide his time beween the two countries. ‘iie’s not a dictatorial old style conductor, but very participatory with a sense of communal mission,’ says iiugh Macdonald. ‘We have a very happy relationship and see it going on for a long time.’ And if that echoes the 800’s relationship with their new guest conductor Joseph Swensen, previewed last issue, it may be no mere coincidence that they’re both in Scotland together, as Swensen is principal guest conductor at Lahti In Finland. (Carol Main)
Sibelius Experience with the 880 Scottish Symphony Orchestra opens on Sat 1 Feb, City flail, Glasgow.
The List 24 Jan-6 Feb I997 39