William Orbit

  • Torch Song
  • Wish Thing (IRS) 1984 
  • Exhibit A (IRS) 1987 
  • William Orbit
  • Orbit (IRS) 1987 
  • Strange Cargo (IRS No Speak) 1988 
  • Strange Cargo 2 (IRS No Speak) 1991 
  • Strange Cargo 3 (Virgin) 1993 
  • Best of Strange Cargo (IRS) 1996 
  • Pieces in a Modern Style (Maverick) 2000 
  • Hello Waveforms (Sanctuary) 2006 
  • Bassomatic
  • Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass (Virgin) 1990  (Virgin) 1991 
  • Strange Cargo
  • Hinterland (N-Gram / Discovery) 1995 
  • Electric Chamber
  • Pieces in a Modern Style (UK N-Gram / WEA) 1995 

Torch Song debuted as a trio on Wish Thing, an ethereal set of instrumentally subtle synth-dance tracks, given most of their character by Laurie Mayer’s delicate voice and the gimmicky production. “Don’t Look Now” and “Sweet Thing” are appealing, airy concoctions; a demento version of “Ode to Billy Joe” seems calculated to shock and/or offend but is nonetheless amusing. Intriguing.

Three years later, reduced to a duo, Torch Song (“featuring William Orbit”) issued a second record consisting of four cuts (including “Don’t Look Now” and “Sweet Thing”) remixed from Wish Thing, plus five new ones that also benefit from Mayer’s wan singing. Inconclusive but equally appealing, Exhibit A has another weird cover version: an atmospheric deconstruction of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.”

Multi-instrumentalist Orbit (real name: Wainwright) then dropped the Torch Song name, found a new singing partner in Peta Nikolich and recorded Orbit. (Mayer is still his co-writer, but she performs on only one song.) A disappointingly conservative — except for the mock-Spanish horns — cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way” leads off the album, and things never get much more adventurous than that. Despite an assortment of genres, most of the music is short on individual character; Nikolich is a capable singer without enough personality to carry the weight. “Feel Like Jumping,” a mildly revisionist reggae cover (Jackie Mittoo), is the weak album’s lively highlight.

Building on his soundtrack work, Orbit released Strange Cargo, a one-man-band collection of unrelated instrumental pieces recorded between 1984 and 1987. Mostly urgent and kinetic, with colorful sound effects, the unresolved semi-songs are mood-heavy and suggest a number of visual idioms, including action-adventure, comedy, espionage and mystery.

In recent years, Orbit has become an extremely successful remixer, with credits that include Madonna, Prince and the Cure. In early 1991, however, he released a second instrumental album, Strange Cargo 2.

Bassomatic is Orbit’s dance band with singer Sharon Musgrave, a DJ and a percussionist.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Madonna