Beth Orton

COMFORT OF STRANGERS | Astralwerks
By SIMON W. VOZICK-LEVINSON  |  February 22, 2006
3.0 3.0 Stars
CURLING UP BY THE FIRE Orton trades William Orbit for Jim O'RourkeOver the past decade, British songstress Beth Orton slowly shed the electronic ornaments that marked her early collaborations with big-beat biggies like William Orbit and the Chemical Brothers. Comfort of Strangers finds her curled up by an alt-folk fire at last, far from any technological distractions. Fresh from working on career-high albums by Sonic Youth and Wilco, producer Jim O’Rourke arranges restrained violin and piano harmonies that leave the spotlight on her mood, which is mostly pensive. She casts some mordant stones at a former partner in sin on “Worms”; she warms up to a seductively swinging harangue on “Heart of Soul.” But even at the height of the album’s celebratory first single, “Conceived,” she can’t help thinking about the end of the world. The closing “Pieces of Sky” settles on an appropriately conflicted note: “Best get busy living/You’ll be a long time gone.”
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