Dirty Projectors & Bjork - Mount Wittenburg Orca (Domino)

Finally a physical release for last year's charitable download.

Released Nov 7th, 2011 via Domino / By Melanie McGovern
Dirty Projectors & Bjork - Mount Wittenburg Orca (Domino) As the latter part of its name suggests, borrowing as it does from 2009's Bitte Orca, Mount Wittenberg Orca not only takes the former 'please whale' into new realms; this time focusing solely on the whale watching of vocalist Amber Coffman near Mount Wittenberg, California, with multi-instrumentalist David Longstreth turning the experience into song and music, but this time Dirty Projectors take new strides in the exploration of this obsession with vocal harmony and melody; which was at the forefront of the band's last release.

Having collaborated with the likes of David Byrne on the Dark Was the Night compilation, Björk's input here is just about as avant garde a collaboration as one could muster as she joins the Brooklyn artists' unique vision, moulding it with her very own vocal prowess and equally unsettling and bewitching delivery. Narrating her watery world as whale mother in 'On and Ever Onward' aside from sounding a peculiar premise her vocals add a delightful, childlike playfulness to proceedings.

Sharing lead vocal duties with Longstreth, whose troubadourish lows juxtapose with the sharp stabs and childlike wonder of Björk's shrill, piercing highs, he acts as human observer to the frolicking whales; with the calves taking the form of the a'cappella harmonies of regulars Coffman, Angel Deradoorian and Haley Dekle. As often with Dirty Projector's releases it is the sound and feel of the vocals rather than what is said that shape these moments, and as with much of this recording (its seven tracks feeling more like a record than an EP) it is comprised of vocal utterances and soaring harmonisation.

The usual complex melee of instrumentation is too replaced by simplistic and stripped back accompaniments which allow the vocals to really take precedence, offering a calming tone here and literal description there. Longstreth's typical guitar style is unusually restrained when it makes a small appearance in 'When the World Comes to an End', while 'Sharing Orb' benefits from the deep reverberations of a bowed and plucked upright bass courtesy of Nat Baldwin, with 'No Embrace' building from the bare to moments of cacophonous joy and gentle vocal intimations.

Quite surprisingly this recording works all the better with a knowledge of its theme, while its vocal intricacies, for the most part recorded live, appear to grow in beauty listen upon listen.