The New Dance Orchestra is a project by Geoff Downes of Asia and Buggles fame, which for this album features Panic Room’s Anne-Marie Helder on lead vocals. It was an unexpected surprise when I heard about it online, and I ordered it unheard based solely on the reputations of the people involved.
Billed as “Dance-Pop”, to my ears it’s more pop than dance, made up of well-crafted songs rather than Ibiza-style club anthems, Musically, comparisons with The Buggles are I suppose inevitable, but I can also see slight elements of late-period ELO when a disco flavour crept into their sound. The overall feel is certainly very 1980s, down to some synth sounds that are either delightfully retro or cheesily dated depending on your point of view. The arrangements are entirely keys and programmed rhythms, but one or two of the actual songs wouldn’t sound out of place on an Asia, or for that matter, a Panic Room album. Certainly the choruses of songs like opener “Shine On”, “Dance To The Music Of Time” or the gorgeous closing ballad “Golden Days” get lodged in the brain as earworms after just a few listens.
With Geoff Downes credited with all the songwriting, Anne-Marie Helder’s only contribution is as lead singer, and she gives a stellar performance on vocals; demonstrating once again what a versatile singer she can be. It’s quite a way from my usual tastes in listening, and an album I probably wouldn’t have given any attention had it not been for the people involved. But it’s still an enjoyable listen nevertheless.
Like many non-major label releases, it’s available as a pre-order now directly from The New Dance Orchestra website, and will have an official retail release in the new year. It gives no information about international shipping, or even which country it’s shipped from; Paypal billed me in US Dollars but the album turned up within 48 hours posted from a UK address. Don’t know what will happen if you order from the US.