STRANGECARGO Hinterland (N-Gram Recordings)

StrangeCargo is the alter-ego of William Orbit, a dabbler in ambience for years, now hot property after handling production duties on the last Madonna album. "Hinterland", originally released in 1995, according to the sleeve "the fourth in a continuing series of StrangeCargoHinterland", suggests Orbit has long been adept at spotting a trend: two tracks here feature vocals from Norwich singer Beth Orton (around the same time that she was also in the employ of the Brothers Chemical), one of which ("SheCriesYourName") also appears in modified form on Orton’s solo debut, "Trailer Park".

The mood throughout "Hinterland" is relaxed and unhurried: I’d be tempted to compare it to an Orb album if Orb albums hadn’t gone so horribly pear-shaped over the last few years. I suppose a more hip comparison would be with the popular French duo Air, although "Hinterland" possesses not an ounce of the off-putting cheesy-listening kitsch they ladled over their own "Moon Safari" album. Orbit’s own production work is pretty fabulous as well, despite a horrnbly wonky pressing (picked up from Diverse’s seemingly never-ending sale!). If you’ve turned away things of a more ambient nature over the last few years, especially as the loungecore craze has taken a seemingly insurmountable stranglehold on the genre, "Hinterland" may just be the ideal place to get back on the bandwagon.