Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 34
Fri, Mar 01, 2013

“The State We’re In [feat. Beth Orton]”
The Chemical Brothers


“♫ Never
said it was
sunshine but
you took it
all of the
The Chemical Brothers

Has this ever happened to you, you’re scrolling down your music files and rediscover a song, you don’t ever remembering downloading? It’s one of those mystical scatterbrained surprises that make the day of music geeks like yours truly. “The State We’re In” by The Chemical Brothers featuring Beth Orton is that song; fans of Sofia Coppola’s film will remember this Beth Orton sung beauty was one of the few songs, including Patti Smith’s glorious cover of Prince’s “When Doves Cry,” that were left off the original motion picture soundtrack from Lost in Translation.

Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons aka The Chemical Brothers worked with Beth Orton originally, when they collaborated together on the very memorable “Alive Alone” on their crossover album, Exit Planet Dust. Orton also sang on “Where Do I Begin” from Dig Your Own Hole. “The State We’re In” is the three major partnerships between the Chems and Orton. Simmons talked about reteaming with Chemical Sister Orton with CMJ New Music Monthly when he said, “It’s exciting for the three of us. All three of us had just started going into studios when we did “Alive Alone,” so the fact that we’ve all come out of it and done so well is good.”

When asked how he choose to work with Tom and Ed of the Chemical Brothers, Orton described the industry process when she said, “Basically, I always pick who does what to what. When I go in to make a record, I often have a clear idea of what I want. And I have that idea so that I can fucking completely ignore it and go somewhere else entirely. And what adds to the eclectic sound is the meetings that happen along the way — things you couldn’t expect. Like during this record, Tom [Rowlands] and Ed [Simons] called me up and asked me to sing on their song [“The State We’re In” from Come with Us]. And I got this thing going which was like swapsies: I said okay, I’ll do that, but you mix one of mine. Tom and Ed: I said, yeah, I’ll sing on your record, but will you mix one of my songs? And they were, like, yeah….When they played me the mix for “Daybreaker,” I was just so f**king happy. I was jumping around the room.

Simons talked about what it meant sonically working with Beth Orton again when he explained, “You get a feeling of excitement even in a track with Beth Orton, which on the outside is a meditative, slow track, but even there we have to build some real sense of excitement and a moment of transcendence, tension, and release. Whether it is fast or slow or house or hip-hop, there is always that rush. All the equipment and all the production techniques we use are aimed at that moment of exhilaration.” Ed’s partner in crime, Rowlands added, talking about their goal musically with “The State Were In” when he said, “It’s something to engage you and make you feel part of the music. This is not music that washes over you. We want people to be actively involved. Whether it makes you feel contemplative, ecstatic, overwhelmed, or frustrated, we want it to engage you and move you.
Beth Orton Performs At The Union Chapel

What I love about “The State We’re In” is that it sounds like a 21st Century anti-electronic country ballad. It feels more atmospherically like an introspective number and less like a dance number. What makes ‘The State We’re In” is the vocals and lyrics of the lovely and brilliant vocals of Beth Orton. Orton talked about how she feels the spark when composing songs like “The State We’re In” when she explained, “It works any which way, but the way it seems to work for me more and more is that I get a feeling, on a guitar, and I sort of mess around until something resonates with me, and then I just find that what happens is that a melody comes, and with that, words. But they’re nonsense, they’re gobbledygook, and I’ve sort of ignored them for years. I went through a time when I ignored my gobbledygook. But when you go back and hear it, it makes the most beautiful sense. It’s like the unconscious mind speaking, and it’s coming up with stuff that I would never come up with in my conscious mind. So now I listen really carefully to that, to what I’ve said and I write it down as I hear it. It’s like blowing smoke rings to myself or something, like Morse code to my heart.”

Somehow it works, Orton adds her poetic prose to Tom & Ed’s tender techno rhythms and the result is “The State We’re In.” Orton talked about how much the melody influences her songwriting process when she discussed this with The Believer magazine when he said, “Well, sometimes, the words, the unconscious words—they can make the melody. They shape the song. It’s the way the sound of the words, the vowels shape the song. And once that starts, you can just write songs in an hour, you know. Bang, there it is. Then usually I realize that they need radical reworking or they get put away for a while or forever, I love that process. I can be in certain situations and all I want to do is go and finish writing, like going home to read the next chapter of a book I’m all excited about. Sometimes it makes me a little awkward and socially inept at times, when I spend all that time locked inside a song. Also because when I’m on a roll nothing makes me happier or feel more satisfied, like plugging in, life makes sense.”

What makes sense is savoring the happy accident that was rediscovering this buried Beth Orton beauty from The Chemical Brothers often overlooked 2002 Come With Us LP. Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons crafted the perfect sound canvas for Beth Orton to lay down her lovely lyrics for “The State We’re In.” More than just a timeless cut left off the Lost in Translation soundtrack, let Beth and The Chem Bros lift your spirits with the introspective musical trip that is “The State We’re In.”
Photo of Beth ORTON