This ‘Body Of Songs’ was written by Macon Oxley, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Adam Barrett
Combining medical experts with some of the UK’s best artists, ‘Body of Songs’ takes us on a sonic journey through the core of our physical functioning, as each artist offers up their own aural interpretation of a particular organ of the body.
Curated by Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney and Llywelyn ap Myrddin (the latter himself a contributor), ‘Body of Songs’ really does boast an impressive roster of artists. Featuring the likes of Ghostpoet, Goldie and Bat for Lashes to name but a few, this project certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of innovators or solid musical performances.
Whilst exploring, each artist was accompanied by an expert to help them figure out how their given organs function, unlocking their mysteries and myths. At the same time, the artists were able to use the experience to explore their own lives and to address areas such as illness and disease, and age and suffering.
Accompanying the tracks, a detailed website has pages for each of the individual artists detailing their investigations and liaisons with experts, and discussing the process behind their contributions.
As for the actual music, the majority of the sounds seem to emulate biological functions – albeit in a very mechanical, synthetic way. For example, on Afrikan Boy‘s ‘Eje Aiye’ (“blood of life in Yoruba”), focusing on the blood, the beat is very much steady and pumping – a heartbeat. And, as was pointed out to the artist, a heartbeat is simply the noise of blood being pumped. The lyrics reiterate the three main functions of the blood: “I protect, I repair, I transport”.
In a similar vein, Dave Okumu opts for the heartbeat motif, although in a much more obvious way than the former. In this track, and across several others, the listener can faintly hear the discussions between the musicians and the clinicians. This sampling feature ties in perfectly with the album’s prevailing electronic theme, also linking in with the scientific aspect of the project.
Due to the exploratory nature of this project, each artist seems to have viewed their specific organ with an air of mystery, which is reflected in the music. There is an overall rather eerie vibe with sinister, winding soundscapes being the order of the day.
Nowhere is this more present than on standout track, Goldie‘s ‘Electric Abyss’. True to its name, the track does conjure images of the abyss: an ethereal ambience, though not untouched by Goldie‘s trademark jungle and drum ‘n’ bass stylings. In fact, there is a lick of some ’90s intelligent jungle in there with an electric undercurrent to tease the brain (the organ in question).
The reflective ‘Skin Song’ from Bat for Lashes marks another notable moment. This downbeat number “is from the perspective of an old lady looking back on her life through thoughts of the history in her skin.” Natasha (Bat for Lashes) also used her own skin for percussion, which is actually audible in the mix. The heartbeat pulse is again present here with “electronic sounds for nerve endings”.
As part of the discovery, Natasha, along with her expert, explored diseased skin and “considered the psychological impact of limited touch, particularly for children who suffer from skin conditions”. And this topic seems to have impacted upon the song with an apparent heavy mindfulness.
Overall, the quality of the performances on this album alone are enough to attract any listener. The added project of scientific discovery, however, also adds fresh interest. And along with the names already put about, there are also many more big names at play here, namely Raf, Scrufizzer, Mara Carlyle & Max de Wardener, and Andreya Triana.
There’s certainly something here for everyone – a great display of innovative sound marrying science with music.
‘Body of Songs’ is out on November 27th via The Welcome Collection.