Soundcheck - Mount Wittenberg Orca

Clocking in at just over 21 minutes, this song cycle was recorded mostly live following a very brief rehearsal period and first performed at an event for the Housing Works charity in New York. The proceeds of this self-released download go to National Geographic Society initiatives dedicated to the preservation of marine space. Whales bob up as subject matter – indeed, the cycle was initially inspired by sightings made by Dirty Projectors’ Amber Coffman on a hike to Mount Wittenberg in Southern California. There’s empathy with the creatures and the perils they face, with Björk singing from their point of view in the first person on, for example, “On And Ever Onward”, while Dave Longstreth looks on from a landbound perspective on the likes of “No Embrace”.

But this isn’t exactly an immersive experience. It’s instrumentally minimal – opener “Ocean” features merely a distant seabed of bowed drone, while elsewhere guitars and drums erupt only sporadically, crashing to the surface for air. The dominant force is the backing vocals of Amber and Angel Deradoorian and their sweetly abrasive, elaborate harmonies. As a choral force they outdo even Björk, and lend these songs something of The Beach Boys circa “Windchimes”. Despite Björk’s pedigree, despite Longstreth’s lead role as composer, it’s their dual contribution, playful yet intense, which energises and validates this otherwise odd and whimsically slight cycle.

David Stubbs

publié dans Wire - 01.09.2010

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