Dirty Projectors & Björk - Mount Wittenberg Orca
Your familiarity with Mount Wittenberg Orca will depend on how dedicated a fan you are of either Björk or Dirty Projectors. Made available as a download to fans in summer 2010, the physical release feels like somewhat of an afterthought albeit one that is entirely welcome. Although it runs at only twenty-one minutes long, the collection feels like a cohesive mini-album that really stands alone and makes its wider availability more than worthwhile. Of course, both acts that form the collaboration inspire devotion in fans of alternative music so the joining of the two is a fascinating curio at the very least - so the fact that the project genuinely captivates throughout is simply a bonus.
No matter how much faith in these artists you may have going in, 'Ocean' may worry you; the introduction is basically two minutes of female mewling underscored by the disconcerted rumblings of a didgeridoo, and as such is a false start that bends to the more avant-garde leanings of both acts. However, it does establish the album's fascination with vocals and the use of the voice as instrumentation. 'On and Ever Onward' is a blast of sunshine that really asserts the album's tone and styling, with everybody's favourite Icelandic quirk queen singing about journeying down rivers into oceans while the female Projectors form a triad of vocal harmonising and provide the musical bedrock of a song that otherwise uses the barest of instrumentation to create its specific splendour. From the people who brought us Medúlla and Bitte Orca, two albums that showcased the possibilities of the human voice in powering a whole song from the foundation upward, it should come as no surprise that this wilfulness to experiment with vocal arrangements is enforced and pulled off with aplomb.
The Projectors' big brain David Longstreth takes centre stage on half the tracks, the earthy soul of his vocals providing a counterpoint to the elemental, ethereal energy of the other songs' leading lady. The lyrics' continual references to the sea establish the setting of an emerging narrative concept, with 'Beautiful Mother' casting the female Projectors as whales playing in the waves (updating the notion of 'whale song' for indie fans) and the eventual intertwining of Longstreth and Björk's voices on concluding track 'All We Are' bringing together man and the 'mother' in order to communicate an eco-friendly message of respect for nature. Whether you want to acknowledge the words will depend on how you listen to music but, although it has worthy intentions, Mount Wittenberg Orca can certainly be enjoyed for its pure sonic merit. Despite being hugely organic, with only Nat Baldwin's bass posing a significant presence beneath the multitude of voices, the project commands attention due to its rich use of nature's primary instrument.