The return of William Orbit: where has he been for the last decade?

William Orbit has had a long career in the music industry, from making underground dance music to collaborating with Madonna, Pink, Blur, U2, Britney Spears, Beth Orton on chart-topping hits.

As the millennium dawned he was one of the most in-demand producers in the world, and his collaborations with music’s biggest names brought him a legion of fans who discovered Orbit’s own beautiful albums filled with ambient, house and trance sounds.

For the last decade though, Orbit has been mostly silent. He seemed to have disappeared, but now as his first music in seven years is released, he has opened up about where he’s been and how he made it back.

Starbeam, his first release on new label Anjunadeep, was released on Friday. It opens up with a cascading piano line that is quickly enveloped by electronic textures before moving slowly into a psychedelic mash of intriguing sounds that rise and fall against the melody.

An extended version mixed by Shocklee follows a similar pattern to the single version, but draws the musical experience out of almost ten minutes. The tune will feature on an upcoming EP, out on 1st December, that will feature three more new tunes, plus an additional instrumental version of one track.

In an interview with Kate Hutchinson at The Guardian, coinciding with his return to the music industry, Orbit has shared living a hedonistic life of excess and drug use triggered mental health challenges that eventually saw him being committed to a mental health facility.

The 65 year old music producer said when he reached his early 60’s he moved back to England after several years of living in los Angeles and fell in with a party crowd.

“Instead of worrying about my career, I could just be a hedonist,” he says. “I’d never done coke before and in a short space of time I’d be the guy that could do the most. And then I went to some festivals and I did LSD, mushrooms, MDMA, coke, some hormones that everybody was experimenting with. Codeine. I wasn’t aware of what I was doing and I ended up having a psychotic episode.”

Experiencing a psychotic episode didn’t change his behaviour, he would continue on for several years before he was eventually hospitalised.

While in the past Orbit’s own music took a back seat to his collaborations with superstar performers, he says he’s now focussed on people hearing the music he wants to make.

Take a listen to his new music. 

William Orbit releases to check out

Chances are you’ve probably heard lots of tunes that William Orbit has written or produced. Here’s our recommendation for some albums he’s created or had involvement in that you should take a listen to.

BassOmatic – Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass (1991)
This band featured Orbit and made two great albums of dance music in the early 90s. At a time when artists like Soul II Soul, Neneh Cherry and Massive Attack were pushing forward a mix of house, reggae, hip-hop and soul sounds, this albums slots in perfectly to that vein.

William Orbit – Strange Cargo Hinterland (1995)
Orbit made a stack of albums through the 1980’s and began his series of Strange Cargo albums. This is the fourth in the series and it includes a version of the song She Cries Your Name with Beth Orton. Orton would later release her own distinctively different version of the song.

Caroline – Lavelle Spirit (1995)
Cello player Carline Lavelle has worked with Peter Gabriel, Massive Attack, Fun Boy Three, Radiohead and many others. She teamed up with Orbit for her debut album. If you love Orbit’s collaborations with Madonna you’ll find some similar sounds on this record.

Madonna – Ray of Light (1998)
Often hailed as the greatest album of Madonna’s career, this come-backl record from 1998 returned the singer to the top of the charts and delivered some of her most personal song lyrics. Orbit was the co-producer alongside Madonna on the entire album, and contributed to writing about half of the songs.

Blur – 13 (1999)
For their sixth album British band Blur created something distinctively different from their previous Britpop works. Orbit oversaw the recording of this record that is filled with experimental approaches, psychedelic sounds and electronic influences. The album’s lead single Tender is a subtle ballad with a gospel choir.

William Orbit – Pieces in Modern Style (2000)
When this album was first put out in 1995 it was quickly withdrawn due to copyright concerns. It reappeared with a new track listing five years later. Here Orbit delivered electronic versions of famous classical pieces taking them into trance territory. HIs take on Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings* was the big hit from the record.

OIP Staff, image: Rankin 

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