Beth Orton’s return on ‘Kidsticks’ sounds like bad wiring

It’s been 20 years since British singer Beth Orton released her beguiling debut, “Trailer Park,” with its haunting, electronica-spiced folk fusion. She followed more of an acoustic path as time went by. “Kidsticks” swings back toward electronica; the problem is that it’s poorly done. It’s the first time she’s written on synthesizers, not guitars, and frankly it’s a mess. Orton and coproducer Andrew Hung spent 10 days programming synths and loops in an LA garage, yet the sound is often tinny and cluttered; lyrics dealing with love’s ups and downs feel like an afterthought to music that smudges them out. Her wondrous, ethereal voice shouldn’t have to work this hard: Orton sounds like Judy Collins lost in a white-noise swamp on “Petals,” and doesn’t fare much better on “Snow” or the disquieting “Corduroy Legs.” The best track is the danceable, Eurythmics-like “1973,” but most of these songs aren’t suitable for dancing. There’s bad chemistry here: Orton deserves better than these mechanized trifles.STEVE MORSE

Essential “1973”

Beth Orton performs at Brighton Music Hall June 15.