Beth Orton’s voice is as divine as the northern lights. When other vocalists add their words, the divinity disperses–Orton returns to the mortal plane. Her brand of electronic folk allows her production quality to be as large and effervescent as her presence. On Kidsticks, Orton performs songs akin to rain dances. She also brings the sun, the snow and a host of elements down upon her.

Orton verges upon an experimental sound in the record. The artist does not completely embrace the power of experimentation like Angel Deradoorian on The Expanding Flower Plant. Despite this, she chooses to seek it. Imogen Heap might have a similar electronic tone, but Orton proves to be more complex than the songstress. Both her words and instrumentation provide a gravity that regular folk could not accomplish. The right key, the right vocal, at the most jarring of times is what she uses to stop the world. Kidsticks manages to shift the earth in many ways.

Orton gracefully uses both vocal tone and lyricism. “Moon”‘s simple, yet intriguing bass riff helps introduce the line “The same moon rises over me as you.” The pursuing electronics is endearing in itself. It is the lyric’s ability to crave and spite that makes it art Two people might not share the same airspace, but there is always one thing–no matter how small it is–that intertwines. Only thinking of the moon can upset as quickly as it can bring joy. Lovers and exes are connected by the sun and moon.

Though the cybernetic wubs of “Petals” are a turn-off, Orton still creates a world that needs to be heard. She talks of petals holding their breath while they wait to fall. Appropriately disintegrating beats are what connect her personification to the luscious instrumentation. The same sentiment can be found on “Flesh and Blood.” She desires a world where nature and mankind are free. Her instrumentation, though fractured, is truly organic. The voice she musters in the breeze is at its most beautiful peak. There is no need for her to raise it or to become high.

However, there are elements on Kidsticks that are not focused. Full experimentation would have been a neat avenue to explore. “Snow” has an experimental foundation that accentuates itself with each yelped lyric and crisp, snowy atmosphere produced. So, too, does “Wave,” a track that utilizes an incessant bit of electronics that does more to annoy than build upon. The rapid-fire strings and beats are effective in adding variety, but the song’s all-too clean fixtures leave something to be desired. At least with “1973,” electronics conjure up dances. The serious nature of the record departs in favor of anecdotes True Blue-era Madonna vocal melodies.

The negative points do not burden the highlights. “Dawnstar” is deserving of a more operatic performance, yes, but that does not stop Orton from creating the atmosphere of something grand. “Our love is gaining speed,” she sings while the background pursues the sound of a large adventure. Light keys bring a gravity that loud drums cannot create. “Falling” is also able to make keys feel like tears slowly streaming. The piano is what generates power, even when it sounds brittle and light. Orton’s wondrous power is consistent, lingering from one track to the next.
Orton’s long discography indicates that she has been honing the right sound for years. The folk of Daybreaker slowly but surely improved as it included an electronic presence. Kidsticks is evidence of this.

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