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Deep Throat Choir - Be Ok

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Choirs in rock music don’t have a particularly distinguished history. Contrast if you will ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ from the Rolling Stones with St Winifred’s School Choir parping out the sickly goo of ‘There’s No-One Quite Like Grandma’. There are no winners in that contest. More often than not the choir features in a song as some kind vague stab towards emotional gravitas or suggestion of spiritual enlightenment. More often than not it comes across a cheap and crass ploy possibly dreamt up by an exasperated artist keen to get out of the studio. Loyle Carner’s ‘Isle of Arran’ anyone? Hhhmmm, quite.

Of course, choral music, more specifically gospel, has schooled no end of dazzling talents and brought them to the fore. But the music itself, and the choirs that sing them have not been the main event that often. (Okay Polyphonic Spree are a notable exception with their gloriously overblown age-of-aquarius act though the instruments were equally as important as the voices.) At the same time, no lesser light than Brian Eno was all over the news a little while back expressing his love of singing in a choir. The popularity of choirs and communal singing has taken off amongst the public in unimaginable ways. This must demonstrate a willingness and appetite on behalf of music lovers to have choral music on their playlists.

Enter Deep Throat Choir and their debut release Be OK, an eleven track mix of a female choir accompanied predominately by drums. Deep Throat Choir is a female collective and the aims of the project are to strip songs back to their component parts and enhance their emotional depth and resonance through the power of the voices. The songs themselves are mainly covers with a few original compositions chucked in too. Deep Throat Choir have garnered a positive live following putting in impressive showings at several festivals. This, in turn, has earned them invites to collaborate with the likes of Simian Mobile Disco and Horsemeat Disco.

So far, so promising. The challenge from here is to channel the emotional resonance of the live shows into a record. If the main strength of Deep Throat Choir is to connect and communicate with their audience, then there has to be a translation of that very same energy to the listener removed from the immediacy of their performance. In short Be Ok doesn’t bridge that gap. Too often this record falls short of making that connection. The arrangements are impressive yet the sound leaves you oddly cold somehow. You can understand the skill involved, the clarity of the performances, the effectiveness of the varying voices swooping and soaring but this does not mean it creates emotional heft. Quite the opposite at times.

Crucially this record lacks intimacy. Let’s take the opening track ‘Ada’; it starts brightly enough with differing voices unfolding the melodies, the percussion arrives to build the song further, the choir strikes up and…..it seems to all happen over there. Outside; external; away from you. The Amy Winehouse cover ‘In My Bed’ initially fares better with a solo singer opening the song, given suitably understated backing from the rest of the choir. But all too soon the soloist is lost within the onrushing tide of the choir drowning out the individualism. More is most definitely less on many occasions across this record. What is intended as collective strength and power will be heard as bombast. Emotional expression as bruising and blunt. As the saying goes, try a little tenderness?

There are a couple of worthy and notable exceptions here. The cover of Bjork’s ‘Stonemilker’ is muted, strange and otherworldly, with simmering cymbals and melancholic strings offsetting the strength of the choir. It is a beautiful track and hints to what could have been if the voices had been dialed down from eleven. ‘Burning’, in contrast, is more upbeat, a kind of proto-disco with a lithe guitar snaking along joyfully with the choir. ‘Baby’ is all kind of swoony and doo-wop inspired and really quite sweet.

These tracks, warmly infused with instrumentation, are not enough to turn the record around. Ultimately too many of the songs here feel overblown. You can really understand how Deep Throat Choir work as a live act but this album does not transform that experience into anything memorable. As a project and a process you have to admire Deep Throat Choir. But this hasn’t worked as a product. It's just not Ok.

Be Ok is available via Amazon & iTunes. 

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