Today: the Uncut Music Award judges on Dirty Projectors’ “Bitte Orca”.
Rachel Unthank: I absolutely love Dirty Projectors, I find it really exciting. Every time I put it on it sets my pulse racing. It’s just so bold and strident and fearless. They must be very influenced my African music, their harmonies are so powerful, they really go for it. It’s full of humour, as well, the singer’s got a bit of a ridiculous voice, almost like The B52’s, but he seems to enjoy being larger than life. It took me to different places; I love the hi-energy stuff and I love the song that the girl sings on her own [“Two Doves”], I think it’s really beautiful. I was playing the album on the tour bus last night and someone said it sounded like they were making it up as they go along but were still all playing the same thing. I liked that sense of anarchy, the feeling that you never know what’s going to happen next.
Bob Harris: Again, I’m virtually echoing what Rachel is saying. It’s a very, very exciting album, I think, and one of the aspects of that is the variety. It doesn’t settle into any particular pattern, and I like the counterpoint of the different voices.
Rachel: It’s very angular, isn’t it?
Bob: Yeah, it’s a very brave album…
Allan Jones: …and as Rachel says, you can’t tell where it’s going to go next.
Billy Bragg: It was where it was gonna go next that worried me, I was expecting that sooner or later he was gonna ask if Scaramouche could do the fandango. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t get past his voice, and I say this as someone who has that criticism levelled at them all the time. When the girl sang I really connected with it, I could understand the vocal, but matey boy was a bit too much for me, I do apologise.
Allan: I think that’s a widespread problem people have had with it.
Billy: I think Mika has queered that pitch for me, unfortunately.
Tony Wadsworth: What, the poncey vocal thing?
Billy: Nah, it’s not that. I’m a huge Smokey Robinson fan, I’m happy with a poncey vocal, but when the vocal is relied upon to add most of the energy to the song, that sort of over-excited thing like these guys are leading with, it makes me think of Mika. It’s unfortunate for them. I don’t think they’re anything like Mika, though.
Rachel: For me, though, even though the vocal is a bit histrionical – don’t know if that’s a proper word, in Newcastle it is – I didn’t feel like it was dishonest.
Billy: Oh, I’m not saying it’s dishonest, it was just me who couldn’t get past it.
Dave Robinson: I didn’t really get into it, unfortunately. I thought it was kind of don’t-give-up-your-day-job music, I have a note next to it on my list that says “hobby music”. I thought the guy’s voice was strange, but the whole ambience of it went it one ear and out the other.
Mark Cooper: It was one of my big discoveries on the list, I really liked it. I thought it was very fresh, very brave. I know what Dave means, because it’s got a kind of hermetic, not bothered with the world and blissed out quality to it. It does what it does in its own musical landscape, and it seemed to me to be very fresh in that approach. I think some of the arrangements are very interesting, I love the soul ballad [“Fluourescent Half Dome”] where the drums keeping coming in and out at the end. I like this record.
Tony: I’ve not got very much to say on this one. I agree with Billy, I couldn’t get beyond the voice. I was really intrigued that they’re from Portland, because I love The Decemberists, and after hearing what Rachel had to say it made me want to go and listen to it again.
Rachel: Do! Do!
Tony: Some of it sounded like David Byrne, which is not a bad thing, but it didn’t really do it for me.
Allan: Again, it’s one of those records that I heard in the office a lot. I liked the story-telling element to a lot of it, which seems quite buried at first but becomes more apparent the more you listen to it. I can understand why a lot people might not like it.
Rachel: But it’s so good, though!
Mark: It’s one of those rare records, in the arrangements, where you have absolutely no sense a lot of time of what the fuck’s coming next, but it works! A lot of music works within a genre and you kind of know the rules, but this doesn’t seem to have rules and I like that about it.
Bob: It does constantly take you by surprise.
Allan: I agree that there is that sense that they’re making it up as they go along…
Billy: …which is not a bad way to make a record.
Allan: It sounds like that, although I do think the truth is that it’s been very carefully conceived.
Billy: Yeah, to sound like the whole thing is falling apart you have to be absolutely brilliant. You have to be really precise so that you can have those gaps.