David Browne
February 21, 2000 AT 05:00 AM EST

Pieces in a Modern Style

Current Status
In Season
William Orbit

We gave it a C-

William Orbit has been taming the savage beat, with varying success, ever since his days as a techno-lite act during the ’80s. It wasn’t until Madonna’s ”Ray of Light,” which Orbit produced, that his style finally found a suitable home, and this second wind has led him to resume his solo career with ”Pieces in a Modern Style,” in which he drags drowse-and-bass even further in the direction of New Age by refashioning classical works as electronica mood music.

Instead of actual string sections, pieces by Beethoven and Ravel, among others, are wrapped in twinkly, light-as-cotton-ball synthesizers and nudged along by only the slightest of rhythms. (Note to boomers: It’s your kids’ variation on ”Switched-On Bach.”) This tactic worked beautifully on the bauble-icious ”Ray of Light,” but it largely backfires on ”Pieces in a Modern Style.”

Rather than reinventing these centuries-old compositions, Orbit’s snoozy-listening remakes only serve to surgically remove their innate drama. After a while, all of the tracks blur into one another. It’s telling that the most vibrant parts of the project are the two cinematic jungle remixes (neither done by Orbit) on an accompanying 14-minute CD. As for the central album, think of it as a relatively inexpensive stress-relief aid; health-conscious listeners can use it as accompaniment during their next massage if they’re bored with the same old Peruvian New Age tapes. C-

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