Beth Orton has long been regarded as possessing one of the most unique and expressive voices in music – a voice that has grown evermore rich and wise over time. Her 1996 debut, Trailer Park, pioneered a synthesis of electronic and acoustic sounds, while its 1999 follow-up, Central Reservation, garnered international success. Further albums like the Jim O’Rourke-produced Comfort of Strangers and 2016’s largely electronic Kidsticks deepened the breadth of her craft.
After struggling with incorrectly diagnosed health issues for years, Orton turned a major corner in 2014 when she was finally able to begin managing her condition with medication after the correct diagnosis. However, she realized this newfound clarity could be as disempowering as the previously unanswered questions about her well-being, because it waylaid her sense of self. Strange occurrences persisted, which Orton was only able to process through long periods of making music at the piano. These experiences turned into the eight-track Weather Alive, the first album she’s ever self-produced in her nearly 30-year career.
Many musicians turn inward when the world around them seems chaotic and unreliable. Reframing one’s perception of self can often reveal new personal truths both uncomfortable and profound, and for Beth Orton, music re-emerged in the past several years as a tethering force even when her own life felt more tumultuous than ever. Indeed, the foundations of the songs on Orton’s stunning new album, Weather Alive, are nothing more than her voice and a “cheap, crappy” upright piano installed in a shed in her garden, conjuring a deeply meditative atmosphere that remains long after the final note has evaporated.
“I am known as a collaborator and I’m very good at it. I’m very open to it. Sometimes, I’ve been obscured by it,” says Orton, who rose to prominence through ‘90s-era collaborations with William Orbit, Red Snapper and The Chemical Brothers before striking out on her own with a series of acclaimed, award-winning solo releases. “I think what’s happened with this record is that through being cornered by life, I got to reveal myself to myself and to collaborate with myself, actually.”
Don’t miss this chance to see Beth Orton at Tarrytown Music Hall!