Joy Orbison, The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow

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Being the recipient of the unholy amounts of hype the English press loves to dish out must be oddly flattering and scary as hell at the same time. Joy Orbison may well have felt both of those things when his debut release midway through 2009 was hailed as nothing short of sheer musical brilliance. It would be enough praise to potentially leave some producers forever trying to scale the heights of a bar set way too high for them from the outset. Joy Orbison, however, has shown that not only was he worthy of the attention he received (maybe save for quite so many superlatives) but he has more than enough chops to back up a blinding start with a well of equally impressive releases to follow. His remixes of Jose James’ “Blackmagic” and Four Tet’s “Love Cry” both showed that the producer could mine a wealth of melodies and crucial dance floor pressure, whilst his “J.Doe/BRKLN CLLN” twelve proved beyond doubt the original success of “Hyph Mngo/Wet Look” was more of a comma rather than an exclamation point in his career. “The Shrew Would Have Cushioned The Blow” then follows the familiar pathway of warm melodies and R’n’B vocal swatches that have thus far defined Joy Orbison tracks, though both of these elements are underpinned by an almost faultless production style propelling these fairly standard tropes towards the upper echelons of the genre.

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Orbison’s original mix of “The Shrew” hoists a broad sheet of rich synth lead, flying it high above rippled textures that stretch to the horizon. Vocal filaments wrap around blunted, threadbare drums and velveteen bass making for a dreamy, syrupy track that still packs a sizable punch. Actress is almost in danger of running off with the spoils from this release with his irrefutably dope genre melting refix that aligns itself on the side of possibility for being able to fit in to any number of record crates. The more of Actress’ work I hear the more I hear a sound that is unlike anyone else’s, which puts the producer at a very enviable position. The Boyz II Men-sampling “So Derobe” fixes honeyed vocals on top of ascending, gentle keys and although the complimentary tones and beats err on the side of introspection, there is a tough shell to them that contrasts against the fragility displayed. All three tracks here are absolute standouts on their own and as a package make for one of the most exciting releases to have emerged so far this year, and that’s regardless of any preexisting hype.

tom/pipecock  on February 24, 2010 at 4:02 PM

i am really conflicted with Joy Orbison. his music is cool, but really it is not anything that wasn’t being done (and done better in many cases) 9-10 years ago in 2-step.

littlewhiteearbuds  on February 24, 2010 at 4:10 PM

I’ve definitely heard that and can sympathize to some degree. As in so many other things, old is new again and no one is going to wait for the old artists to come back to get into the sound.

I suspect Joy Orbison’s greatest talent is balancing accessibility with elements the underground still craves (eg. the big clunkin’ drums of “The Shrew”). Whether that makes him transcendent or anything will probably depend on how much listeners remember the first coming of 2-step and whether dude ends up on the UK pop charts (at which point it’s a different kind of transcendence).

gab  on February 24, 2010 at 4:37 PM

I’m looking forward to the release of Tentative Bidding. It has been around on his myspace since way back when, before Hyph was released, and is, I think, the best thing he has put his name to so far. Shrew sounds like a cheap Hyph Mngo knockoff, which for me, isn’t saying much, seeing as I was one of the 2, maybe 3 people in the world who didn’t think the track was the second coming of the Lord, or even any good for that matter.

Bootsy Colin  on February 25, 2010 at 8:52 AM

i quite like this. Hyph Mngo wasn’t too thrilled with. it’s hard to fault joy’s aesthetics, but there is far subtler work going on all over the place in this style.

Joe H  on February 25, 2010 at 8:58 AM

I was first to criticise Orbison, however I don’t think we’ve heard his full potential yet by a long way. I agree it has familiar 2-step elements in there but it also has a sort of french filter house vibe going on, and those synths he uses are very “pop” like. I could see him taking a path like Stuart Price did and go on to produce in all different genres, including mainstream pop. He has just been confirmed to play Sonar along with Roska & Flying Lotus. Also if anyones in Leeds this Friday, Orbison is playing the Faversham alongside Floating Points, Brackles & Coki.

tom/pipecock  on February 26, 2010 at 11:44 AM

i think what messes people up is that when they think of “2-step”, they think mainly of like Artful Dodger pop stuff. which there was a lot of, and don’t be mistaken i loved that shit too. but what was great about it as a genre was that it was VERY diverse in its influences, and sprinkled throughout the underground were tracks that sounded very different from each other. like why aren’t records like this being played today (well, by anyone who isn’t me, i still drop this!):

and really, there are so many cats who made great music in that style then. it’s cool that El-B is getting his love, but even poppier cats like MJ Cole really should be revisited because i think people don’t realise exactly how good his music was. Wookie was a bad bad man, i highly reccomend people check out his music as well.

Henderick AKA Thelonious  on February 26, 2010 at 12:56 PM

I agree Wookie was deadly and in my opinion his album sort of morphed 2 step into dubstep…

Per Silverbeat  on February 26, 2010 at 1:56 PM

You’re right Tom there was a lot of great stuff coming out of that scene. I think it’s interesting seeing new cats fooling around with the sound in now and coming up with interesting new takes on it in some cases. I liked the way Zomby looked back at old hardcore with Where Were U in 92, cleaning up some of the cheesy elements from it.
I saw MJ Cole play at Deviation last year and he played a strictly old school set – absolutely killed it!

Joe H  on February 27, 2010 at 3:24 PM

Yeah, Wookie, Zed Bias, El-b, Horsepower etc were all repping the more underground part of the UKG 2-Step scene and should definitely be credited for the dubstep sound we know today.

porkchop  on March 19, 2010 at 2:35 PM

this has to be the most intelligent comment section of a music blog I’ve seen in a long time. pleasant to read thoughtful remarks. joy’s style is glowing for sure, and I agree with Joe H on this. Full potential yet to come thru. As with most producers who have “it”

littlewhiteearbuds  on March 19, 2010 at 2:38 PM

Thanks, Porkchop!

id  on March 23, 2010 at 10:23 AM

i think within the dubstep scene though, Zed Bias, El-B, Horsepower, et al are indeed credited with being the originators, in much the same way that the likes of Goldie, 4-Hero etc are within DnB circles. It’s just that since dubstep has blown up and gone MegaRave – and attracted a lot more of a following since then – people who have come to the scene since 2007 think that Rusko and Skream started it…

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