It's perhaps the cruellest twist that in trying to distance herself from Chillout's massed ranks, East Anglian songstress Beth Orton has come up with Daybreaker
, the ultimate 4 am soundtrack. It certainly wasn't intentional; Orton has never been best pleased with the "Come Down Queen" tag she acquired thanks to the hazy folk and bleery electronica of her 1996 debut, Trailer Park
, and her association with dance luminaries such as the Chemical Brothers
and Andrew Weatherall. Hence her third studio album steers a path to more traditional singer/songwriter territory. Yet topped with Orton's drunken croon--unintelligible, blissfully lazy and bittersweet--the unhurried country strummings of "Carmella", "God Song" and "Ted's Waltz" are still prime twilight listening. Add the moodier down-tempo moments; "Paris Train"'s haunting orchestrals, "Mount Washington"'s ambient bleeps and the dank beats of the Chemical Brothers-produced title track and it's hard to see Daybreaker
doing anything other than reaffirming her "Come Down Queen" credentials. Admittedly there's a shortage of memorable tunes--nothing quite lives up to her previous best, "She Cries Your Name" or "Stolen Car". But even then the vagueness of her melodies, like the vagueness of her voice, merely adds to Daybreaker
's gentle, nocturnal charm. --Dan Gennoe
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