The all-female singing collective Deep Throat Choir formed in Hackney in 2013. As they grew in numbers, so did their reputation, by virtue of a series of festival performances and supporting slots for artists like Matthew E. White. If you’ve been lucky enough to catch the ensemble at such an event you’ll be familiar with their intoxicating performances and musical prowess. By rights, this shouldn’t work as an album. Be OK is a choir record made up largely of covers, which screams 'novelty release.' So theoretically it should be a pleasant reminder of boozy times spent with friends in a muddy field - nothing more. But Deep Throat Choir are too good for that. And happily, the record steers clear of any temptation to add studio tricky, keeping it very close to what they sound like live. They bring their collective individuality to every track, thus making them their own.
One of the most striking things about Deep Throat Choir’s music is how rhythmically engaging it is. Given they have only voices and drummer at their disposal they rebuild these tracks with an energetic flow. The electronics and crisp beats in Little Dragon’s ‘Ritual Union’ are exchanged for an entirely acoustic arrangement, but they lose none of its pace or vitality. The danceability and essence of the song are never forfeited, just remoulded. Similarly, MK’s 1995 house track ‘Burning’ gets an equally spirited makeover. Zara Toppin’s drums interweave with the host of voices blurring the lines between percussion and melody. The treatment is as pumped, if not more so, than the original, reflecting the energy they project on stage.
Their rhythmic dexterity isn’t just reserved for the up-tempo tracks. ‘The Waves’ by Swedish duo Wildbirds and Peacedrums is explored through a collage of vocal layering. The lamination of voices affects a hypnotic watery ebb and flow. Amy Winehouse’s ‘In My Bed’ is slowed down, made slinkier and benefits from one of the few well-placed solos that don’t deflect from the collective feel. Dark Dark Dark’s wonderful ‘Daydreaming’ is possibly the most straightforward rendition, but no less powerful for it. The wistful harmonies are proof that reverence for collective human voices is indeed justified. Not only does it recall the sublime harmonies of ‘Hammond Song’ by the Roches, it reveals the respect the group have for their source material. They’re clearly passionate about the songs they have chosen, and although they bend them to their will the essence is always retained.
Bjork’s ‘Stonemilker’ has been a live favourite for some time, and it’s all credit to the band that they’ve transformed such a powerfully personal song into a communal anthem. They take Bjork’s demand to “Show me emotional respect” and broadened its foundation from individual heartbreak into a collective slogan for 21st-century women. Musically they build the song from hushed beginnings to a rousing end. The record is bookended by two original compositions, and the title track works as a lovely companion piece to their version of ‘Stonemilker.’ It’s a wonderful ode to the band itself, the inclusiveness of music, and friendship. The female friendship that exists within Deep Throat Choir is celebrated with the lines: “Wanna be surrounded by the noises and the beats that keep you near… I’ll be OK/mirror me, mirror me/I’ll be OK if you carry me.” And it’s a fine sentiment to finish the record on.
They have done well to resist fancy production and added instrumentation (apart from the odd splash of bass guitar and strings here and there). Their music really does speak for itself through just their voices and a drum kit. Anyone suspicious of how that might translate can put those fears aside, Be OK is a fine record, and fitting document of the group that created it.