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BETH ORTON Buttons and loops

Beth Orton has had her greatest success with acoustic folk songs that have dabbled in electronica. CHRIS HAVERCROFT spoke with Orton about how she turned the tables for her latest Kidsticks. Beth Orton plays a recently announced Perth show next Wednesday, June 7 at the Rosemount Hotel. 

The genesis of Kidsticks came when Orton and her family relocated to the wide open spaces of California a few years ago, and Orton began experimenting with electronic loops. These loops would form the backbone of the new record and would drive the creative process for the two years that it took to complete the album.

“It certainly helped and inspired the album,” confirms Orton of the move to California. “There is an openness there and the record was a bit of an experiment. It all made sense to pull up roots and try something new. Andrew Hung (Fuck Buttons) wanted to come out and share some stuff with me, so we spent ten days in the studio together. After he left and we had these four bar loops and I thought that I would start writing to those. I didn’t have a huge intention or an idea of what the outcome would be but once I started writing melodies and words I felt that it was really exciting. That is the basis of how it came to be.”

There were no preconceived ideas as to what the pair would do when Orton first got together in the studio with Hung. It was something an experience that Orton describes as being “liberating”. When she listened back over the loops there were melodies that she could lay over the top that felt new, exciting and a little bit scary all at the same time.

“The whole thing from start to finish was two years,” says Orton of Kidsticks. “I didn’t know at all if there was going to be live instrumentation on the album either. There were times when I was writing melodies that didn’t quite fit in with the linear nature of the loops and so I asked friends to add some bass and guitar to add some more melody. That is how the line instruments and harmonies were added. There were many twists and turns that I couldn’t have foreseen.”

As well as the new approach to the writing and the instrumentation on Kidsticks, Orton also found herself using her voice in a different manner. The Norfolk born singer has always used different parts of her voice, but there is a much more forceful element on this outing.

“There has always been an element of my voice that can go there,” she says. “One of things that I enjoyed about making this record, and that I realised early on was that there was the possibility to sing in different voices. I didn’t have to sing in a range that constrained me. I am older and my voice has changed which allowed me to be more dynamic. Bringing that to the live set and to the older songs has been fantastic. Its also allowed us to turn up the songs and give them a bit more power.”

The current tour was announced for some time before a Perth was added at the eleventh hour. Orton was always had a strong following in Perth and convinced the booking agent to bow to the pressure of social media.

“I pushed for the Perth show as everyone kept complaining on Facebook,” she says. “I thought that if I didn’t put it in there would be a riot. Then I announced the show on Facebook and there is silence.”



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