There must be reason for this enjoyable CD but we can’t work it out, other than “why not?”. It’s the first album we’ve reviewed that is supported by the Wellcome Trust, University College London Hospitals, the Gordon Museum and the NHS.
The Body of Songs team has enlisted various performers to write songs about functions of the body. A website has pages for each of the artists detailing their meetings with experts. No, really.
Sometimes the link is obvious: Afrikan Boy (ft Bumi Thomas and Adio) looks at the blood and his trippy hip hop song has a Massive Attack-style beat that’s evocative of the blood pumping round the body. Afrikan Boy met consultant haematologist Dr Rakesh Popat at UCLH, who gave him and his collaborators an overview of the makeup of the blood and its functions, and their song Life Blood is inspired by the three main functions of blood: protect, repair and transport.
Similarly dark in sound is the song from Ghostpoet, who looked at the liver, concerned as he was about his lifestyle and “the damage it might be causing”. He looked at livers in jars at King’s College’s Gordon Museum of Pathology, where he saw the physical impacts of disease on the organ, inspiring his track A Plateful Of Liver.
Throughout, the album is atmospheric and with a claustrophobic feel, like being trapped in a body. It’s got a grimy ambient feel to it. Even on tracks like Mara Carlyle and Max de Wardeners’ Follow Me Through, whose Vocoder intro suggests a dancier tune, it’s all downbeat. They looked at the kidneys – Carlyle worked as a nursing assistant, while De Wardener’s father Professor Hugh pioneered kidney dialysis in the UK – and filtered the frequencies of their voices.
Bat For Lashes chose skin, her song (The Skin Song) from the perspective of an old lady looking back on her life through thoughts of the history in her skin.
Musically, fans of the likes of Ghostpoet, The xx and Massive Attack (Robert Del Naja’s fellow artist Goldie is also on this album) should enjoy its dark, swirling sound. And all medical students, of course.
Go to bodyofsongs.co.uk for more information and to listen to the songs.