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August 16, 2010 | by  | in Music |
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Dirty Projectors and Björk—Mount Wittenberg Orca

Billed as “Bitte Orca’s hotter, younger sister”, this mini-album does feel like an accompaniment to Dirty Projectors’ brilliant album. Conceived and composed by Dave Longstreth in less than two weeks, it was first performed at an exclusive benefit in New York attended by the arty elite (David Byrne, St Vincent, Vampire Weekend, Battles, M.I.A…).

A year on it reaches a wider audience with this recording. Although on the surface the collaboration may seem unlikely, these two acts do share some common ground: an obsession with the natural world which is reflected in their wild voices and idiosyncratic way with melodies. And wow, do they sing. The project is a happy medium between Bitte Orca and Björk’s own all-vocal album Medúlla—acoustic instruments are kept to a bare minimum to make way for the vocal acrobatics which ensue, particularly of the three “Projectors” girls (Coffman, Deradoorian and Dekle).

It plays as a concept album about a day when singer Amber Coffman went walking on Mount Wittenberg in California and saw a pod of whales. It recreates “the moment Amber saw this whale, and the whale saw her”. The girls are employed mostly as accompaniment to the two main characters of the show: Björk as the ‘mother whale’ (of course) and Longstreth as ‘Amber’. Where the harmonies of the Projectors girls are astounding in sheer technical prowess, they can sound clinical. Björk’s primal voice is the perfect antidote/counterbalance to that: it’s a force of nature. Although this is essentially the Projectors’ album, the best moments are those where Björk features.

The stripped-down nature of the album gives it a directness in the vein of The Microphones. And it contains the same awe and humbleness in the face of nature. Perhaps it was the speedy process in which the songs were made, but they sound like the most instinctual and urgent set yet from Longstreth; Less knotty than Bitte Orca, but they retain that same skewed groove.

The denouement in closing song ‘All We Are’ is where the project reaches its pinnacle. Longstreth and Björk finally sing in unison, “We looked out across the long horizon/ We looked in each other’s eyes/ Through a moment we could glimpse an infinity/ And through an infinity we could see all in all is all we are” (Lyrics borrowed from Nirvana’s ‘All Apologies’). It’s a powerful moment from a powerful album.

4/5

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