Friday, 13 November 2009

Welcome to Big School

Maybe it's just Iceland's position on a fault line, but I have dug Björk for occupying a peculiar territory on the brink of the mainstream as much as for her music. Thanks to her my adopted uni-town hero Chris Corsano has been on Letterman, Matmos have met Metallica, Konono No1 have been heard on MTV, and she also gets to open the Olympics and remain popular with RZA and Mr Butler. Creating that territory where refugee elements from disparate sources can make a new life being bawled over has allowed her to make some rare jams indeed.

Treatment of sources is tricky, with social concerns to navigate as well as engaging with the sound. I remember uber critic Scott Seward digging the Konono No1 record's release, but gently pining for the era when ppl like Talking Heads would hear African music and try and rip it off rather than release it. The point wasn't that it was anything less than necessary that credit and money is properly given, but that curating can be dull, and canny rehousing of a sound is a more satisfying method of integration. Through her collaborating, Björk has done a pretty great job of both putting the spotlight on artists and incorporating them, and turning it into an event. Her £s and peculiarly visible position allow her to rotate her collaborators on stage as she chooses; laying into her for trend-hopping plays down what a rare talent she has for it, what a sympathetic and imaginative band leader she makes.

So you can see why I'm pleased to see after their collaboration with that good lady earlier in the year, Dirty Projectors have been imported by Solange Knowles. Dave Longstreth's long made use of RnB moves in his singing, the band cited big sister Beyonce as a favourite. and they pulled off a languid, robed dance routine on top of a mountain for their video for Stillness Is The Move. So it makes a kind of sense for Solange to cover it, but it's still quite a significant step up for the Dirty Projectors. She's somehow got in trouble with Universal Records for this despite the fact it's not being released, and as she's specifically asked for it to be spread around, enjoy with a clean conscience: ["Solange - Stillness Is The Move"].

Thing is, performer's aside, this is less of a synthesis and less novel than the original. It's significant that Solange doesn't really have to stretch to convincingly repatriate Amber Coffman's vocal part as pure RnB. Longstreth's glassy alarm trill is replaced with slowed samples from Erykah Badu's Bag Lady, itself sampled from Dre's XXPlosive, the effect cool enough but kind of unremarkable. Which is, yknow, considering what this is, remarkable. It might be unreleased, but Solange's gesture is promising and will keep me going, but damn I would love to see Solange incorporate Longstreth riffing away on a hillside, silently rotating like a wizard. In fact if you guys could make me an animated gif of that, ideally on a tshirt, that'd be fine.

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