Dirty Projectors & Björk Mount Wittenberg Orca Out In One Week: A Letter From Dave Longstreth

Last Spring I asked Björk and Dirty Projectors to perform a benefit show at Housing Works. They said yes. I knew the Projectors thought highly of Björk’s work (David Longstreth mentioned this when covering “Hyperballad” for our Enjoyed tribute) and, later, Björk told me about this band she really liked, Dirty Projectors. I was hoping to make the night especially singular: Since I knew of this mutual admiration and had thought about ways DPs vocal harmonies nodded to Björk’s and of both camps’ avant compositional sense, I decided to take it one step further and ask them to collaborate. Surprisingly, they said yes.

The show took place April 8, 2009 and was a great, sweaty evening. A little more than a year later, the music Longstreth wrote for the benefit has been studio-recorded, and is being released as a 20-minute seven-song collection called Mount Wittenberg Orca, the title he told us about at the time of the Housing Works show. Pre-ordering starts today. Amrit and I went down to Rare Book Room in Brooklyn on Monday to listen to it. 

The Projectors and Björk recorded the new cycle April 28-May 1 at Rare Book Room with Nicolas Vernhes. (It was mixed by Vernhes with Longstreth and Björk.) It’s the first new music since Bitte Orca. In contrast to that complex studio working — something I mentioned in the press release for the album, full disclosure — Mount Wittenberg Orca was recorded with the group together in a single room, only overdubbing lead vocals and solos. The songs are instantly recognizable from the Housing Works show (especially the opener), but they’ve noticeably deepened. The multi-part harmonies feel like the group’s most adventurous to date. Nat Baldwin’s bass is Sunn heavy. And, as you might expect, Björk’s singular voice meshes gorgeously, floating atop when necessary. Something essential that remains was the original’s idea of trying to use the book store’s natural acoustics and as little amplification as possible. The sound is honest, immediate. You’ll get a sense of that in this letter from Longstreth.

In April 2009, Brandon Stosuy from Stereogum.com asked me if we wanted to play a benefit concert at a bookstore in New York. I said yes. He asked Björk the same thing, and she said yes. Then he asked us if we wanted to collaborate, and we said yes. Björk asked me what we should do, and I said, “I don’t know, I guess I’d really love to write a bunch of new songs for us to sing together?” And she said Yes.

That same month, Amber from Dirty Projectors was walking along a ridge on Mount Wittenberg, north of San Francisco. She was looking out at the ocean and saw a little family of whales, as you sometimes do in April on the Northern California coast. I wrote some songs about it and sent them to Björk, who agreed to sing the part of the mom whale. The songs became Mount Wittenberg Orca. Amber and Angel and Haley sang the part of the kid whales, and I sang the part of Amber. We sang all week long and learned the music just in time to perform it at the bookstore on May 8th.

Then our album Bitte Orca came out and we went on tour forever. We finally got a chance to record Wittenberg last month, almost exactly a year after we first sang it. We went into the Rare Book Room in Brooklyn and rehearsed it for three days, then we recorded it as quickly and as live as possible. We only overdubbed lead vocals and a guitar solo.

Now we’re making a website for it, which will be the only place you can buy it. It’s going be up June 30th (we are playing in Utrecht that day!) The music is going to be $7, because there are seven songs. You can preorder now if you click here.

We’ve decided to give away all the money that Wittenberg generates to the project of creating international marine protected areas. Only 1% of the oceans are protected in any way and this is a huge problem. We’re working with the National Geographic Society to create areas of sustainability, so the oceans don’t end up like a giant poisonous corpse hugging the continents. You can learn more about this project here and here and here and here.

We’re so psyched about how this recording came out and hope you are too. Don’t listen on those tinny computer speakers — put in on the stereo and blast dat shiiiiiiiiii!!



This is your pre-order link. The tracklist:

01 Ocean
02 On and Ever Onward
02 When the World Comes to an End
04 Beautiful Mother
05 Sharing Orb
06 No Embrace
07 All We Are

Mount Wittenberg Orca is out 6/30. Again, you’ll be able to purchase it by clicking on the above Mount Wittenberg. Or here. For more background, this Q&A we had with Dave about Mount Witternberg after its debut at Housing Works is worth a read. And these teasers directed by Matthew Lessner (the man behind “Stilless Is The Move”‘s video) are worth a watch:

(via Domino)

(via Guardian)

(via Village Voice)

(via SPIN)

[Housing Works photo by Ryan Muir. You’ll find a lot more here.]