Bass-O-Matic: The Orbit has landed

Do you remember when Sould II Soul ruled the airwaves with the fat open hi-hat at the end of each pattern?
Suddenly that beat was everywhere and lots of similar songs featured the lavish, slow club-groove.

One of my favourites from this era is William Orbit´s studio project Bass-O-Matic.

"Fascinating Rhythm" shares more than a few characteristics of the Soul II Soul sound. But thanks to Orbit´s unmatched production skills this halftempo groover suddenly morphs from sample heavy electro soul to a ragga flavoured 2-Step, complete with toast before it ends in a jazzy, blissed out crescendo.
All this is flawlessly packaged within a four minute, radio friendly pop-single with gorgeous vocals by Sharon Musgrave.

"History is written everytime we move. Fascinating Rhythm locked me on the groove."

"Now listen here, Baby!"

Bass-O-Matic: Fascinating Rhythm (The Loud Edit)

Of course Orbit was no copycat! As a savvy musician and a genious manipulator of recording technology I still consider him as one of the best producers of the last three decades.
I can´t always cope with his taste (e.g. the horrible "Pieces in a modern style) but especially his work as Bass-O-Matic on the "Set the control for the heart of the bass"-album and some of his remixes for S´Express (Hey Music Lover), Prince (Batdance) and Kraftwerk (Radioactivity) still stand the test of time as technical superior productions.

on the 12" Orbit took the Fascinating Rhythm-jam further with two more mixes. Both versions are imaginative excursions on the basic song. But he keeps the form tight, with a firm ear for structure and an eye to the floor and the bar.

Bass-O-Matic: Fascinating Rhythm (Soul Odyssey Mix)

With the "Blue Mix" the beat is very subdued and seductive voices are slowing us down. The direction is now horizonatal.

Bass-O-Matic: Fascinating Rhythm (The Blue Mix)

I love it when even remixes tell a consistant story! This nearly beatless version of the album opener "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass" is a spaced out, dreamy tranquilizer. "Trance" was not yet what it was about to become, but Orbit would later produce some very bland stuff.

Bass-O-Matic: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Bass (Va Va Voom Mix)

Sadly the album "Set the controls..." and the follow up "Science and Melody" failed to make the impact they deserved. When Orbit produced Madonna´s "Ray of Light" album seven years later, he could finally cash in on his creative studio trickery he had developed since he played with Torch Song in the mid-eighties. Once again Madonna could claim to be hip and up-to-date and the lazy media would once more bore us with the obligatory "she has re-invented herself again!"
But if you listen to both Bass-O-Matic albums, you´ll hear that the template was already tried and tested.

Until 1993 Orbit would run his Guerilla Label which produced some great and obscure "progressive house". I will post more on this later.

Until then make sure to visit William Orbit.com and play around with his Orbit Mixer.

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