Release Date: Oct 24, 2011
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
With Japanese whaling practices under intense international scrutiny lately, it’s somewhat serendipitious that Mount Wittenberg Orca, Dirty Projectors’ new collaborative EP with Björk, was released last week. Not only do the lyrics recount the meeting between DP’s Amber Coffman and a family of whales along the Northern California coast near Mount Wittenberg, but the proceeds from the seven-track, 21-minute suite will be donated to the National Geographic Society to help create international marine protected areas (only 1% of the oceans are currently protected). But the EP isn’t just about whale politics.
The Dirty Projectors and Björk might not seem like the most obvious pairing, but their collaboration on Mount Wittenberg Orca is nevertheless inspired. Like Björk, David Longstreth and company share a fascination with vocal interplay, unusual arrangements, and songwriting that balances pop and experimental impulses. Indeed, it was the Dirty Projectors' involvement in a Björk tribute album curated by Stereogum.com that was the catalyst for this project, which benefitted the National Geographic Society Oceans Project.
If you’re on this site and reading this, it’s unlikely you’re going to need one of those neat little review-opening spiels about the current relevance of Band X. Especially not when Band X happens to be Dirty Projectors, who since the release of last year’s Bitte Orca have been subject to an expansion in column inches comparable to the Big Bang. So, leaving out the usual mulch about their past, it’s been interesting as ever to witness a blossoming backlash against the supposed ‘hipster’ culture Dave Longstreth and co apparently subscribe to.
Björk and Dirty Projectors aren't known for informality. They move freely, but within obsessively constructed worlds. They make the questionable choices lesser artists would be afraid to, and they do it on their own clock. But their reputation for being anal-retentive and self-contained is one of the reasons Mount Wittenberg Orca-- a recording of a song cycle performed last May for Housing Works, a charity and chain of upmarket thrift stores in New York-- is so refreshing.
By now, most people who would be interested in reading a review about Dirty Projectors and BjÃ¶rk know how the pair came together. But just in case, I’ll present a quick recap. Our friends over at Stereogum asked both parties to be involved in a benefit concert last year. When both said yes, he went a step further and asked if they would like to collaborate.
“If you grow up in the river, the river’s all you know.” Let’s get the rather strange yet essential set-up out of the way first. Stereogum writer Brandon Stosuy invited Dirty Projectors and Bjork, mutual fans of each other’s music, to collaborate on a benefit show performance at a New York bookstore. After discussing what to play, the two camps decided to collaborate on brand-new material for the performance, instead of just cranking out their greatest hits.
Released digitally with little fanfare, Mount Wittenberg Orca sounds like the perky, efficacious soundtrack to a particularly boring ecological video game. In reality, the EP is just about as vestigial. It was born out of a Stereogum-prodded collaboration between Icelandic chanteuse Björk and New York indie rockers Dirty Projectors, a benefit concert to be performed at a Manhattan bookstore.
Belated physical release for these elegant and accomplished tracks. Chris Power 2011 Anyone who’s been to a Dirty Projectors concert will be aware – to an even greater extent than listeners to their recorded output – just what an elemental force the harmonised voices of Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian and Haley Dekle constitute: they’re Williamsburg’s own Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares. On Mount Wittenberg Orca, a 21-minute suite of songs that sees the band join forces with Björk, the stripped-back instrumentation leaves a space these voices flood to frequently ecstatic effect.
The indie music scene has definitely taken off in new directions the past few years. Not only has the entire style become less and less “indie” with time but heavy hitters have dominated the changing of the sound with smooth transitions. Dirty Projectors are currently one of the field’s most musical bands and as one of the heavy hitters, they’re definitely aware of their surroundings.