James McNair Oct 9, 2012 The National
Beth Orton Sugaring Season Anti- ***
Beth Orton has previously collaborated with William Orbit and The Chemical Brothers, but her latest owes much to her first love – pastoral folk.
From its slightly witchy-sounding title onwards, Sugaring Season evokes the haunting English folk records that Nick Drake and Fairport Convention made for Island Records’ “Pink” imprint in the late 1960s and early 1970s. A record dense with lyrical imagery from the natural world, it’s a wholly organic work by Orton, a former mainstay of the UK’s mid-1990s “folktronica” scene.
This is her first new album in six years. Orton, who is from Norfolk, has said that many of the songs were written in the dead of night while her infant son slept in the next room.
A light-spirited celebration of new motherhood this is not, however. There’s a distinct sense of foreboding about the autumnal-sounding opener Magpie, and the deliciously gnarly fiddle on Poison Tree only serves to make Orton’s mysterious tale of fear and shame creepier.
Call Me the Breeze, with its buoyant vocal melodies and light, dancing organ solo, makes for a memorable break in the clouds, but ultimately Orton’s latest offers more alluring atmospheres than it does memorable hooks.