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Just who is David Longstreth, the driving force behind Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors? Is he the front man of a quintessential New York art pop band, or a hitherto undiscovered Malian bluesman, or even the latest chart friendly R&B producer?
On the band's fifth collection, Bitte Orca, Longstreth adopts all three of these guises - within the space of the first four tracks. What's more, he manages to pull it off. Anyone familiar with the earlier works of Dirty Projectors, which include a choral and orchestral tribute to Don Henley of the Eagles and an entire album of Black Flag cover versions, won't exactly be surprised by this idiosyncratic, freewheeling approach, but the music here is also surprisingly tuneful and accessible.
Very few artists completely defy classification, but Yale graduate Longstreth brings all his dauntingly cerebral compositional versatility to bear on Bitte Orca to make it pretty damn near impossible. It's difficult to think of another performer who could follow Stillness Is The Move, featuring singer Amber Coffman warbling like a Mariah-style diva over a funky hip hop beat, with Two Doves, a sombre, string-laden ballad which could be a long lost Nico recording, and then the complex Krautrock rhythms of the title track.
The one ubiquitous ingredient throughout Bitte Orca is Longstreth's endlessly inventive guitar playing. Like fellow Brooklynites Vampire Weekend, he's clearly a fan of African tunings and styles, which are a key influence on most of the songs here, but, often within the space of the same solo, he'll suddenly surprise us with a crunching hard rock riff. As a singer he's a little less impressive, but still offers an effective focal point for the ethereal Coffman and Angel Deradoorian to weave their intricate vocal harmonies around, which they do throughout the record with beguiling results.
From The Velvet Underground through to Patti Smith and David Byrne, the Big Apple has always excelled at producing boundary challenging musical mavericks. Dirty Projectors may never reach quite the same heights of popular acclaim as those lofty names, but Longstreth and his band are nevertheless worthy successors to their proud tradition. --Chris White
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Listen alone with an open mind & it will get to you, buy the expanded version, the live tracks are just to beautiful for words.Published on 2 Sept. 2011 by Mr. A. M. Jones
...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... Read morePublished on 7 Nov. 2009 by M. A. Fraser
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. Read morePublished on 30 Sept. 2009 by Denis Van Den Eynde
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,... Read more
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. Read morePublished on 26 July 2009 by forbesjr
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. Read more