Straight Profilin’: Dirty Projectors
Artwork: “The Dirty Byrne” by Portland artist (and San Diego expat) Ilan Schraer.
You probably don’t need me to tell you that 2009 is shaping up to be a big year for Dirty Projectors. Comin’ straight outta Bed-Stuy, this experimental rock outfit helmed by Dave Longstreth released one of the most acclaimed records of 2007 — Rise Above, a reconstruction of Black Flag’s Damaged completely from memory. After people caught wind of “Knotty Pine”, their incredible collaboration with David Byrne on the Dark Was the Night compilation, and the premiere of their new material at SXSW… interests were piqued, to say the least. Then we found out that Dirty Projectors would be collaborating with Björk in a live performance of a suite composed by Dave Longstreth for five voices (Dave Longstreth, Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, Haley Dekle of the Projectors + Björk) to benefit the AIDS non-profit Housing Works. In a venue that only seats 300. And if that wasn’t enough, now another David Byrne collab has found its way onto the web. Phew. Plucked from the Dark Was the Night sessions, “Ambulance Man” stands apart from the upbeat, fragmented pop of “Knotty Pine”, instead adopting a mournful sway as Longstreth and Byrne trade verses punctuated by a few of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian’s haunting, wordless vocal stabs. I’m just going to quietly hope this results in some larger collaboration. Y’know, like an album (please). I mean, it made sense even before I heard how awesome their songs could be. Fingers crossed.
But, let’s not allow any of these peripheral projects, as impressive as they may be, overshadow the fact that Dirty Projectors were already set to release one of the most anticipated records of 2009. And they certainly delivered — I’m not going to beat around the bush, Bitte Orca is hands down one of the most incredible albums I’ve heard this year. Not unlike Animal Collective’s paradigm-altering Merriweather Post Pavilion, Dirty Projectors have somehow struck a brilliant balance between their more experimental tendencies and a new found grasp on graceful beauty and accessibility. Longstreth’s penchant for deconstruction is still very much apparent, as elements of Led Zeppelin, Prince, Nico, Mariah Carey, and Talking Heads surface as jumping off points for a number of the songs. Yet, these assumed foundations are often reimagined in such strikingly original and absorbing contexts that one might be too enamored to even notice on the first couple listens. The guitar work is intricate and unbelievably infectious, taking a decidedly central role along with the vocal work of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. Not only are their backups crucial to the compositions on Bitte Orca, but they even take over some of the lead vocals. Hell, they’re also the only members of the band featured on the cover of the album. And this time around Coffman and Deradoorian’s harmonies aren’t just good or even great… they’re downright earth-shattering. At certain moments, it’s almost hard to believe the sounds being made are coming out of human beings (see “Useful Chamber”).
One of those aforementioned female-fronted songs also happens to be the recently released lead single from Bitte Orca, the impeccable and kind of wonderfully bizarre “Stillness is the Move” (which also includes an “acapella remix”, a remix from Lucky Dragons, and a couple minimal b-sides). Listen to Coffman convincingly channel her inner R&B diva on a track that demands to be listened to about ten times consecutively down below.
Mp3: “Stillness is the Move,” by Dirty Projectors [from Bitte Orca]