William Orbit's Pieces in a Modern Style is an ambient album that rejigs 11 works by classical composers in a particularly tacky fashion. Even though Orbit has proved his mettle as an innovative and exciting producer for o... more »thers--Blur's 13 and Madonna's Ray of Light--this is an ungainly meeting of the sublime and the absurd that, frankly, doesn't work. Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," Ludwig van Beethoven's "Triple Concerto," Henryk Gorecki's "Piece in the Old Style I," and Antonio Vivaldi's "L'Inverno" are four that unfortunately meet their maker in a crude pileup of flat, belching synths and wallpaper flourishes. If he had combined live instrumentation with a playful reverence for the arcane glories of the past, perhaps he could have managed to make reality out of that most elusive of notions: experimental music that actually sells. However, Orbit fails to do anything more than resemble a second-rate Vangelis. --Maxine Kabuubi« less
William Orbit's Pieces in a Modern Style is an ambient album that rejigs 11 works by classical composers in a particularly tacky fashion. Even though Orbit has proved his mettle as an innovative and exciting producer for others--Blur's 13 and Madonna's Ray of Light--this is an ungainly meeting of the sublime and the absurd that, frankly, doesn't work. Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings," Ludwig van Beethoven's "Triple Concerto," Henryk Gorecki's "Piece in the Old Style I," and Antonio Vivaldi's "L'Inverno" are four that unfortunately meet their maker in a crude pileup of flat, belching synths and wallpaper flourishes. If he had combined live instrumentation with a playful reverence for the arcane glories of the past, perhaps he could have managed to make reality out of that most elusive of notions: experimental music that actually sells. However, Orbit fails to do anything more than resemble a second-rate Vangelis. --Maxine Kabuubi
J. Brady | PAWLEYS ISLAND, SC United States | 02/23/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The front cover photo of the lounging, pouting William Orbit and a glance at the titles on the rear ( works written by Beethoven, Ravel and Vivaldi, among others ) would lead one to believe the music in Pieces in a Modern Style is stuffy, uptight and pretentious. Nothing could be further from the truth. These songs are warm in instrumentation, and surprisingly varied in arrangement, considerig that they were all more or less programmed into ( and played by ) a computer. The opener, Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, is the selection here that stays most true to the original, with synthesisers taking the place of the strings in question. It is rich, full and lush. Really beautiful. Other songs stray a bit from the original arrangements, often to the point of being unrecognizable, but never to the point of disraction or the compromise of the integrity of the originals. John Cage's In a Landscape features gently pulsing bass notes with very minimal synth sounds floating on top, and reminds me of Brian Eno's earlier ambient works. Another highlight is Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Defunte, which is simply a beautiful piece of music on its own, here made ethereal and otherworldly. Vivaldi's L'Inverno is made delightfully playful, with an arrangement that makes it sound as though it is coming out of a music box. My personal favourite is Beethoven's Triple Concerto. It begins with the electric guitar treatment Orbit used on Madonna's Beautiful Stranger ( it sounds rather like vibrato, and I am sure there is a technical term for it, although I've no idea what it is ), then goes into a short section of mournful strings before settling into a sensual throb, with backwards percussion, techno-inspired bass and other assorted odd noises. The two Gorecki pieces are simple but very effective, as is the closer, Beethoven's opus 132, lulling the listeniner into states of relaxation, meditation and reflecton. The negative reviews I have read here mainly concentrate on the fact that other musicians have done in the past exactly what William Orbit is doing here - remake classical music using synthesisers.The idea in and of itself is nothing new, and could certainly be seen by some as somewhat creatively lazy. Wendy Carlos and Tomita immediately come to mind. So the question for the potential buyer is this: does a recording have to be particularly groundbreaking to be of any artistic merit or to entertain? I am of the opinion that it does not, and have thoroughly and consistantly enjoyed this since I bought it several years ago. One thing is certain - the polarity of the reviews here. People have an intense like or dislike for this cd, which I suppose in the long run is better than ambivalence. The in-house Amazon reviewer also trashed this cd,( calling it "second-rate Vangelis" ) which is not surprising, considering the heaps of praise they give to the likes of Maroon 5 ( a third-rate Jamaroqui, who are themselves a third-rate Stevie Wonder ) and Ashlee Simpson ( who gives all new meaning to "third rate"). In closing all I can say is..."well, I certainly like it.""
Beautiful, relaxing... a good buy
Patrick W. Moore | USA | 03/28/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My, my, it's really interesting that this man has been involved in the music since the 1970's and it isn't until now that he's being recognized. Thank you Madonna?! Yep, it's sad but true that no matter what is said about William Orbit, Madonna's name now seems to pop up. But I guess it's about time that this genius of electronica be noticed. William Orbit has helped produce such acts as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Erasure, Kraftwerk, and the list goes on. He also has a series of his own ambient music called Strange Cargo, this series will prove to you his extraordinary gift for music. He is without hesitation one of the forerunners of present day ambient. Moving on to `Pieces In A Modern Style', I was stupefied. He has taken current as well as classic composers and given them his own flair. Even taking Ludwig van Beethoven's Opus 132 and making it his own. Now don't expect a Madonna style remake, these are true to their original form, but done by one man with keyboards, computers and what ever else. I really like this CD, a lot. It is different but I feel that this will bring a little more respect to classical music. I have always been a fan or classical, my first introduction being more Austrian waltz music, via my grandfather, but there was a certain appreciation that started to grow. I fear that there is a minimal interest in classical music in the children of the 90's and into the millennium. I only hope that some more music of this style come forward, it's beautiful. Oh, and for you folks that do want a little dance number, there is a bonus CD, with 2 dance mixes of `Adagio for Strings' (remember Platoon?). Well, buy this, light some candles, and lay down on the floor, absorb, enjoy!"
Somebody has to love it
A. Zilmer | the middle of Cornville, IL | 07/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I read all the reviews and was shocked at the amount of bad reviews it had. This is the first review I've ever written; the reason is that it simply needs someone to rave about it, because there are practically no others. I, like some or most of the other reviewers, am familiar with several of the pieces and classically trained in multiple instruments. Instead of being disgusted with his destruction of originally beautiful pieces, I was absolutely fascinated with his rendition of them. I immediately loved this album the first time I heard it, and still do. He produced a modern sound and at the same time preserved the original melodies and emotions of the pieces. I also appreciated his ability to resist the impulse to "remix" these pieces, as so many dance artists would have been tempted to do. Rather, he simply gave them his own interpretation and kept the fairly ambient feel of the original pieces. All of the pieces re-worked here were subdued, gentle pieces to begin with. I am also a fan of much of William Orbit's other work, including the more dance-floor oriented or rock work he has done solo and with countless other artists: Madonna, Depeche Mode, U2, Seal, etc. I can appreciate the remixes on the second disc, though I am generally a fan of more underground electronic music, and these remixes are a bit too mainstream for me. However, my general opinion is that this is an absolutely sublime album. I even consider myself a purist and still like it. If you are a fan of classical music, William Orbit, or ambient music and can stand the thought of creative liberties being taken with time-honored classical (or Romantic, Baroque, or contemporary/modern) pieces, get it. Hopefully you won't be disappointed, but apparently it's fairly difficult to judge who will like this album. Personally, I love it."
I struggle to understand why...
S. Hebbron | Leicester UK | 05/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"...this album attracts such mixed reviews. I feel one has to see it and use it for what it is, a simple and beautiful reworking of some classic peices with modern technological advances. It's not a philarmonic interpretaion, it never sets out to be and yet seems to attract hostile review simply because the music is not the production of an orchestra. I think of it as like a costume drama by the BBC of some excellent Victorian novel, not as it was first intended in it's own time but a clever reworking and marketing for a modern audience thus allowing some history a new voice and a new audience. For that reason alone it desreves praise but also happens to be a beautiful and sensual album."
Not enough lasting power
A. Shihab | London, UK | 02/28/2000
(3 out of 5 stars)
"William Orbit's talent is not in dispute. However, he doesn't seem to have spent enough time working on this. Somehow, somewhere in my imagination I think some of his selections ("pieces") could be made to sound better, more evocative and well-crafted.On track 9, Gorecki's "Piece in the Old Style 1", Orbit introduces in the second minute a haunting percussion that adds to the beauty of the music. It is these "master touches" that I looked for in every track on the CD. I found them on tracks 5, 9, and of course, 1. The rest was just about OK.(I know he did this album five+ years ago, and that it was withdrawn because of some legal reason -- but he shouldn't have let it go back on the shelves without having another go at it.)"