What a deeply strange record this is. Over the last ten years, David Edwards has produced glitchy, mellifluous electronica for 4AD and Melodic, while moonlighting on numerous projects. Most recently he has provided electronic percussion for Perfume Genius and mixed tracks for new Warp-signing Kwes. However, on this, his fifth Minotaur Shock album, the Bristol-based producer is determined to escape the confines of his laptop. Irritated that his music has frequently attracted the tag "folktronica," Edwards has taken the counter-intuitive step of giving full vent to his fondness for folk. Orchard is littered with flutes, violins, pianos and xylophones, in an attempt to map, among other things, that "particular eccentricity," which, according to Edwards, links Gorky's Zygotic Mynci and The Orb, Art of Noise and Kevin Ayers.
At its most bucolic ("Too Big to Quit") Orchard sounds like an impromptu ceilidh in a remote rural Irish pub, rather than anything that is happening in electronic music. The next track, however, the atmospheric "Westonbirt," is a better example of where this album is at, as it underpins roiling, swelling acoustic tinkling with a surging, brushed-steel beat that Scuba would be proud of. In "Lending Library," Edwards does a Brandt Brauer Frick: recreating motorik machine music as a largely acoustic, fractionally looser entity. On "Quint," that technique really takes flight. Edwards' shamanic groove achieves that perfect state of explosive instability, where you can hear humans desperately trying to ape a locked groove, often spiralling off in beautiful, exhausted defeat. Ultimately, it has been processed within a laptop, but "Quint" is as thrilling as anything Omar Souleyman's band produce live.
Stylistically, this is an album that never stands still. Nine-minute opener "Janet" folds trembling, swooping folk strings into the kind of tangerine synthetic dream that DFA's Delia & Gavin specialise in. "Ocean Swell" riffs, unexpectedly, on late '90s ambient drum & bass while simultaneously invoking the precision, starkness and sonic oppression of much modern classical composition.
Orchard fades a little at its close. "Saundersfoot," which Gold Panda has remixed (for a free EP which will accompany initial copies of the album) merely drifts by. But no matter. By then, the brilliant damage is done. At first blush, you may think this has little to do with the dance floor, but listen again. There are loops, sections, whole tracks here which genuinely creative DJs could utilise. They should certainly admire Edwards' singularity.