Beth Orton – Superpinkymandy

Beth Orton may prefer these days to pretend that it never happened, but three years before 1996’s Trailer Park, she actually recorded and released an entire album, Superpinkymandy. Released only in Japan as a limited edition, history hasn’t been especially kind to this debut, which is a very great shame, as it’s an exceptional album.

Orton had met William Orbit at a party in the late 1980s, and had become his girlfriend for a while, and this album appears to have been the result of their early 1990s collaborations, along with several contributions to his Strange Cargo series.

It opens with the adorable Don’t Wanna Know Bout Evil, a cover of a song by John Martyn. Orton’s soft vocal style is already well formed on this opener, and while she may not agree now, Orbit’s gentle electronic production works wonderfully. It’s a great song.

Other tracks are less fully formed – Faith Will Carry is good, but it lacks some of the gravitas of other tracks – Water from a Vine Leaf, for example, had appeared the same year, and features some similar production, but feels a lot more polished.

There is a strong Strange Cargo feel here, although that’s hardly surprising. If Yesterday’s Gone feels as though it should be on one of Orbit’s releases, that’s because it’s essentially an early version of Montok Point, from Strange Cargo Hinterland. Only perhaps not quite as good.

Is that She Cries Your Name next? It is! In a very similar version to the one on Strange Cargo Hinterland, too. Both Orbit and Orton recognised just how good this track is, as it appeared on both of their next albums, including opening Beth Orton‘s “debut” Trailer Park in a sadly somewhat inferior version.

When You Wake is good too, a jangly guitar piece that doesn’t sound as though it’s been quite as heavily touched by Orbit. Roll the Dice is a bit weaker, but still a nice background track. Then the short interlude City Blue is pleasant too – possibly the most folky and Beth Orton-like of any of the tracks on here.

The Prisoner seems to bear little resemblance to the classic 1960s television show, which is a shame. Instead, it’s a pleasantly catchy song. You do have to wonder, though, whether Orton was really ready to release this album – apart from She Cries Your Name, most of the tracks appear to be demo recordings with typically full-on William Orbit production.

Some are better than others, though – Where Do Yo Go is a good song, a little more memorable than most, and the gospel-fuelled closing track Release Me is entirely competent too. In a way, it’s surprising that it took Orton another three years to complete Trailer Park, as she clearly had a pretty good idea of what she was doing by 1993.

If you ever have a couple of hundred pounds or dollars to spend, Superpinkymandy is therefore, at worst, an interesting early release for Orton, and a fun lost release for Orbit. At best, it has an early and entirely brilliant version of She Cries Your Name, which surely makes it worth buying? Well, maybe not for that price.

This album was never widely available.

Chart for stowaways – 24 May 2014

Here are the top singles this week:

  1. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do it Again
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Flourescent
  3. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night
  4. William Orbit – Water from a Vine Leaf
  5. Sister Bliss feat. John Martyn – Deliver Me

… and the albums:

  1. Moby – Innocents
  2. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night EP
  3. William Orbit – Orbit Symphonic
  4. Röyksopp – Junior
  5. B.E.F. – Music of Quality & Distinction, Vol. 3 – Dark

Chart for stowaways – 10 May 2014

All change in the singles chart this week, as the oldies start heading downwards…

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Flourescent
  2. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night
  3. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do it Again
  4. William Orbit – Water from a Vine Leaf
  5. Sister Bliss feat. John Martyn – Deliver Me
  6. Moby – A Long Time
  7. Mike Oldfield – Sentinel
  8. B.E.F. – Don’t Want to Know
  9. The Grid – Heartbeat
  10. Napoleon – Everything’s Changed

The full Let the Night EP enters at number 2 on the album chart for Dirty Vegas.

Chart for stowaways – 3 May 2014

The top ten singles this week looks like this:

  1. William Orbit – Water from a Vine Leaf
  2. Pet Shop Boys – Flourescent
  3. Mike Oldfield – Sentinel
  4. The Grid – Heartbeat
  5. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night
  6. Sister Bliss feat. John Martyn – Deliver Me
  7. Röyksopp & Robyn – Do it Again
  8. Moby feat. Wayne Coyne – The Perfect Life
  9. B.E.F. – Party Fears Two
  10. Oi Va Voi – Dusty Road

Various Artists – Late Night Tales: Röyksopp

As a rule, I’m not a huge fan of compilation albums, particularly not mixed ones, which is silly really, because I do like a good mix tape. But for Röyksopp I’m happy to make an exception – their Late Night Tales collection is bound to be pretty special. Besides, the download version also gives you a full set of unmixed recordings, which is really rather nice of them.

It opens with the first of two exclusive tracks of their own, Daddy’s Groove, which is a beautifully sweet track. It doesn’t have a huge amount in common with anything they have done before, with its computerised vocal and very laid back feel, but it is very gentle indeed. So gentle, in fact, that I’m not entirely sure I would have opened with it, but never mind.

Next up is another sweet and mellow piece, Rare Bird‘s Passing Through. As with many of the acts on this release, this wasn’t something I knew previously, which is perhaps embarrassing, given that it dates back to 1975. I suppose I don’t know my prog rock as well as I should.

Little River Band‘s Light of Day was equally new to me, and is nearly as old, dating from 1978, and is also very good indeed. It has a certain timeless quality, and really does fit on here very well – Röyksopp seemingly have extremely good taste!

Or perhaps not – I’m really not convinced by Tuxedomoon‘s version of In a Manner of Speaking, with its awful vocal delivery and almost total loss of the haunting quality that the song can hold. For me, this is definitely the low point of the album.

Vangelis turns up to pick things up with his Blade Runner Blues, but it isn’t until the next track that things really hot up, as Röyksopp themselves turn up with their latest collaborator Susanne Sundfør to cover Depeche Mode‘s Ice Machine in very stylish fahsion. If nothing else, it’s worth owning this compilation for a copy of this one track.

From this point onwards, things enter decidedly chilled mode, with Jóhann Jóhannsson‘s bizarrely sweet and evocative Odi et Amo, followed by F.R. David‘s Music, another track I hadn’t heard before, but one which is really quite exceptional. It actually sounds even older than it turns out to be (released in 1982), but that’s OK.

Prelude‘s bizarre folk sound (with a very heady level of reverb) works rather nicely on After the Goldrush, and then Richard Schneider Jr. turns up for Hello Beach Girls, which is enjoyable, despite being totally bizarre in every conceivable way.

Next comes Mr. Acker Bilk‘s 1961 number 2 (or 1, depending which chart you’re looking at) hit Stranger on the Shore, apparently the best selling instrumental single of all time. Then it’s forward a couple of decades to the 1980s for Thomas Dolby‘s strangely evocative Budapest by Blimp. Clearly Röyksopp‘s taste is not only good, but also eclectic, and also a little bit odd.

Byrne & Barnes‘s Love You Out of Your Mind is a pleasant – if very easy – song, but is probably the last of the highlights for me. Later tracks by John Martyn, XTC, and others are nice enough, but the night has clearly got very late indeed. The album closes with a section of a story read by Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch, which is ultimately fun, but probably means rather more if you’ve heard the previous chapter.

But overall, Röyksopp‘s Late Night Tales is an extremely enjoyable compilation – both as an introduction to music that you might not have heard before (although admittedly probably should have), and also just as a chillout album. It delivers a wide variety of sounds, mixed together largely seamlessly, and definitely deserves to be extremely well regarded.

You can find the download version of Röyksopp‘s Late Night Tales at all major music retailers, such as Amazon, where you can also enjoy some funny reviews by morons.