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.
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