on 12 June 2009
You might have bought the brilliant RedHot compilation Dark Was The Night and like me adored opener, the Dirty Projectors "Knotty Pine," an ecstatic, acoustic guitar stomp featuring David Byrne. When I saw this, their latest, getting good write ups I decided to have a listen. I wasn't expecting something with the (reletively) straight forward pop rush of that song and I didn't get it. What you have here is a strange amalgum of swooping vocals, sublime female harmonies, virtuoso guitar and sudden rock lurches.
In fact "lurches" is what a number of the songs here do quite often - suddenly coming in with a surprise left hook of distorted guitar before going acapella, going to a Beck-ish beat, an "african" (sorry I'm not sufficiently "well listened" to be more specific) sounding guitar break...and so on.
It's not just messing around and showing off though, the songs are strong and I've woken up with one or another in my head since I bought it. "Cannibal Resource" opens things with a really intoxicating melody, generous helpings of rock crunch and is "normal" enough to entice a wary listener. "Tecemula Sunrise" features a great Byrnish line about living "in the stretch beyond the dealership" and has ear zingingly "out" guitars festooning its chorus. "Useful Chamber" begins with "Kid A" like shifting tones before throwing in a guitar that's still wrongfooting me five or so listens in.
If being wrongfooted by your music makes the whole thing sound horribly "avant" and undanceable, if not unlistenable, defintely check out R&B flavoured party piece "STillness is the Move" a fantastic funky choon.
All in all an unusual sounding album but a seriously fun one. Have a listen.
on 15 May 2009
Dirty Projectors are a band so singularly unconventional that I wondered how they had managed to gain so much popular attention - although their recent David Byre collaboration (the excellent `Knotty Pine', from Red Hot's much admired `Dark Was the Night' compilation) certainly must have helped. Dave Longstreth, we are told, studied classical composition at Yale University, a fact that informs his renegade time-signatures and the tricksy, rug-pulling complexity of his recordings. Moreover, he sings like someone doing an impromptu impression of Anthony Hegarty, or even Jeff Buckley, with dubious accuracy, and on `Bitte Orca' is as at home producing lilting chamber folk as contemporary R&B, two genres not normally caught dead in each other's company. In fact, these unlikely bedfellows form the album's stunning centrepiece tracks featuring the female vocalists (presumably) adorning the cover artwork: the summery soul of `Stillness is the Move', sung by Amber Coffman, which sounds like Aaliyah; and the lilting, orchestral 'Two Doves', which could be Joanna Newsom, but is in fact Angel Deradoorian. That's right, Aaliyah and Joanna Newsom.
It is worth going back to David Byrne to gain a slippery foothold in describing such a genuinely unusual band. There is something of Byrne and Brian Eno's Afro-pop infusion here that might please fans of, say, Vampire Weekend or Yeasayer. There is a hint of Toumani Diabaté's Malian string pickery on `Temecula Sunrise' and `No Intention', and a distinctly African bent to the chanted melodies of `Remade Horizon'. Longstreth, however, exceeds even Byrne in his unadashedly intellectual, and often impenetrable, lyrical concerns. The album title and some of the track names ('Florescent Half Dome' sounds like it was taken at random from an art catalogue, `Cannibal Resource' sounds like the title of some unreadable essay by Foucault or Derrida) tell you all you need to know: Longstreth is probably cleverer than you, and he doesn't care if you don't understand what he's talking about.
No matter, as if to prove Longstreth's higher understanding of musical structure (or, just as likely, his knack for a good melody), Bitte Orca's songs have a way of worming their way into your head. I woke up with the great `No Intention' jangling around my head the other day. The day before that it was Elton John. While occasionally, as on the opener, things initially seem a bit too busy sonically, each listen reveals a new layer of brain-teasing intricacy. While sometimes the avant-garde posturing can make for a chilly listen, emotionally at least, and the fragmented song structures can jar, there is no mistaking the radiating pop sensibility running throughout, which makes Bitte Orca a more accessible record than their past efforts, but a no less inventive one. Compelling. confounding stuff. First published at The Line of Best Fit.
on 26 July 2009
i avoided some of the bands from this area/movement, my typical reaction (and a wrong reaction) to too much hype. had heard some earlier tracks and thought they were ok. Then i picked up stillnes is the move from a site and thought blimey charlie. It really is an awesome track - the vocals are really great. probably the most mainstream thing on here but that isn't a (and shouldn't be) a bad thing. really shows how you can make meldoic mucis using modern sounds/beats/styles without entering cheeseville of trying too hard. and that is the great thing about this album. i support the previous reviews - while it is angular and experimental, stealing from lots of genres and history, it takes it forward and holds it together with melody and invention. Some of the volume/tempo changes seem a little bit forced at times but it is a minor gripe as they bring a dynamism to the tracks and the album overall. It's not a long album (9 tracks) but again, i like that - it doesn't outstay it's welcome.
if you like melodies and song structure with and edge then this is a good album for you
This is wonderful stuff. The Dirty Projectors open the recent "Dark was the Night" compilation with the infectious song "Knotty Pine". I have struggled to listen to anything else on the album since. It certainly has Talking Heads overtones and was written with David Byrne as was the beautiful "Ambulance Man" they have subsequently recorded together and performed live on stage.
Let's pause here. I am not suggesting that the Dirty Projectors are some sort of Talking Heads tribute band, it would come no where near explaining the depth of invention on this album which I can only describe as Prince meets Todd Rundgren via Frank Zappa with Aretha Franklin and Bjork thrown in for good measure. Their main man David Longstreth a Yale musical-composition major leads this collective grouping of musicians who are frankly nuts and Bitte Orca does have its moments of outright bafflement. Longstreth has already recorded a range of albums including The Getty Address an opera about Don Henley (Sic) and 2007's Black Flag quasi-tribute album, Rise Above. Yes I know it sounds like pseuds corner! Don't let that put you off as there is more invention on this album than in a Stephen Hawking lecture.
The music is angular, playful, eccentric, often fragmented, surprising but hugely tuneful and lush orchestral "pop" but in the very broadest sense.
The songs in particular sung by Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian's stunning voices are especially strong. My favourites are the single "Stillness is move" which is sounds like a cross between African funk and Scritti Politti. It would completely grace the charts and is a wonderful summer track. It is followed by the tragically beautiful "Two Doves" a deceptively light pastoral choral piece which resonates with Joanna Newsom's themes on "VS" but is hugely commercial at the same time and beautifully sung. All in all two of the finest songs I have heard this year. You will not regret checking them out.
This is not to downplay the tracks lead by Longstreth. His "Useful chamber" pulsates and is punctuated by bursts of loud rock guitar, a dreamy synth and drum and bass. His vocal would grace a Jeff Buckley album and the song seems to break into about 10 distinct parts some of which bear little relation to one another ending in a Mahavishnu Orchestra style guitar solo. It should not work, its sounds bloody absurd but there is more invention in this one track than in the last three U2 albums. "No Intention" and "Tecumela Sunrise" shine equally brightly. Not all of it works however they do come a cropper on the song "the Bride" which is perhaps too clever by half. Equally I haven't got into the last track "Fluorescent Half Dome" and if I did I have no idea what the hell they are singing about!
On balance small complaints about what is an incredibly rich feast. There is enough outright brilliance on Bitte Orca to satisfy any music fan. Inevitable comparisons will be made to the 2009 masterworks of "Veckatimest" and "Merriweather Post Pavilion". But is it that good? Paste magazine recently described Bitte Orca as "one of the most singularly engrossing albums likely to be released this year, a triumph in sustained creative restlessness". Well put and it is no surprise that this album offers up something new and exhilarating every listen. If your idea of great music is Paola Nutini don't buy this you will hate it. Alternatively if you like to be challenged, radically entertained, occasionally bemused and then completely blown over "Bitte Orca" may be the album for you.
on 7 November 2009
...the sudden twists and turns in the melodies, the interplay of male and female vocal harmonies; the jangly, consummately played electric guitar all keep the listener hooked and engrossed. Although the arrangements are seemingly chaotic, the songwriting is excellent (try the ballad Two Doves). Kudos to the strident string quartet which adds a further flavour to a few songs - they play with the same bright punchy style as the band.
It's pretty easy to know who to recommend this to... probably nobody, unless they're musically adventurous and a little arty, just like this CD. (Try before you buy.)
on 25 August 2009
My relationship with this ablum started tentatively.
The music is almost like a mosaic and it took me a fair few listens to pull it all into place but once you've done that, you stand back and it makes the most interesting and beautiful of pictures.
It's an unusual mix of influences, african, new wave, classical and R'N'B are all there somewhere and somehow it makes a rewarding whole.
I agree with some of the other reviews, I don't quite 'get' the last track but that shouldn't detract from this truely maverick piece of work.
My favourite album of the year so far.
Now here's a man with an ear for a good tune.
The tune may be elusive and willfully weird but
this works to Mr Longstreth's and our advantage.
Video may indeed have killed the Radio Star but Dirty Projectors' new album
'Bitte Orca' is keeping the dusty corners of art-house pop vitally alive with
this scintillating collection of nine highly individual compositions.
Whether in the shining, angular shards of crystalline guitar and febrile
post-chipmunk vocal harmonies of opening track ' Cannibal Resource';
the slippery time signatures of 'The Bride'; the broken-down dancefloor
sensibility of 'Stillness Is The Move' or the loping elegance of 'No Intention',
the melodies are always strong and memorable in their quirky refinement.
The spirit of Captain Beefheart seems not a million miles away.
For my money the beautifully crafted 'Useful Chamber' and wistfully
soulful final track 'Fluorescent Half Dome' share joint prize for
best composition. Two very fine songs indeed.
Full marks too to Ms Coffman and Ms Deradoorian for keeping up
with Mr Longstreth's vocal imaginings throughout !
Unconventional, single-minded, stubbornly sustained and totally convincing.
on 30 September 2009
This CD needs some time to explore, but with every listening new thing are discovered and after a while the music get hooked an you.
A wonderful discovery and also an unforgetabke gig!!
on 22 June 2009
Hitherto, the excellent Knotty Pine aside, I was slightly underwhelmed by the Dirty Projectors. Their immaculate choice of collaborators (David Byrne and Bjork), image and aura created an expectation which the actual music could not meet. However, "Bitte Orca" is a welcome arrival. It is an engrossing mix of avant-garde, folk and pure pop sensibility which, with very few exceptions, knows how far to push listeners' limits. Indeed while certain tracks change tempo as frequently as Beefheart in his prime, they rarely do so with exhausting effect (despite what some reviews say) while others are much less restless, but, crucially, no less beguiling for their simplicity and directness.
While not everything works unqualifiedly, at the heart of the album is a core of excellent songs which, four tracks in, begins with the space age funk of "Stillness is the Move". That is immediately followed by the folksy "Two Doves" whose Joana Newsome-feel has already been commented on. Neither song features the voice of chief Projector, David Longstreth, which is a revelation, being much richer, soulful and plaintive than I had previously appreciated, calling to mind Billy McKenzie and Anthony Heggarty amongst others. Until wilful indulgence takes over, "Useful Chamber" eclipses everything else in ambition, scope and execution. Featuring Longstreth's finest vocal, the first few minutes are a wonderful marriage of emotion, shifting rhythms and instrumental flourishes) but eventually it is disfigured by an overzealous commitment to change of tempo and tone. "No Intention" complete the killer quartet and its update of "Speaking In Tongues"-era Talking Heads funk comes as a relief.
Hopefullly "Bitte Orca" will satisfy old Projector fans whilst bringing in a whole new audience attracted by the comparisons with artists as diverse as the Heads, Jeff Buckley and Aaliyah. Indeed playing "Bitte Orca" next to some of these artists' finest recordings shows that it is some way off from being a classic. However, it is resolutely fit for purpose and could herald the start of something special.
on 2 September 2011
Listen alone with an open mind & it will get to you, buy the expanded version, the live tracks are just to beautiful for words.