Monday, June 8, 2009

Dirty Projectors: Bitte Orca

For the past seven years, Dave Longstreth has been releasing amazing, difficult, challenging, and inventive records under the moniker of Dirty Projectors. They have run the gamut of musical styles and influences, with arrangements that have varied from complex to simplistic, and recording techniques that have gone from tape deck to crystal clarity. As Longstreth has experimented, his band's sound and identity have slowly taken shape, and seem to have emerged in earnest with 2007's Rise Above.

If Rise Above was the sound of Longstreth emerging from the woods with a band that suited his vision, then the ensuing tour was the result of that band hitting their stride and becoming comfortable as a tightly knit unit. The kudos for their live set have justifiably grown and grown, and so have expectations of the band's next full length. The record is the first real in-studio test of this newly hewn musical unit, and what's more it had the potential to be the realization of Longstreth's toils, both in the studio and on the road, to find his own sound.

Thankfully, the wait is over, and the band's latest fulfills all of this promise, and more. Bitte Orca manages to combine all of Longstreth's quirky melodic and arragement tendencies and wrap them in an oddly accessible package that borders on being avant garde dance music. After hearing this record it should really come as no surprise that the band worked with David Byrne on the Dark Was The Night compilation. While Longstreth in no way apes Byrne's sound, he does do the same thing that Byrne managed with the Talking Heads all through the 80's. Specifically, he takes difficult and edgy musical instincts and pushes them forward in such a way that they're inviting and accessible.

The number of elements that have come together to yield Bitte Orca is remarkable. Longstreth's guitar has taken on new and interesting character and tones, and is a highlight of many of the tracks. The band members, specifically Amber Coffman, have come forth from backing roles to take time in the spotlight. This works marvelously, as they provide a bullet proof contrast to Longstreth's own lilting and often eccentric vocal style. However, more than that, it's also clear that the band has become ridiculously well acquainted musically. The arrangements are (unbelievably) even tighter than those on Rise Above, and manage to take dischord and unify it into intricate instrumental interplay.

All of this being said, it's still worth noting that Bitte Orca is not a simplification of the band's sound. To the contrary: even though it is masterfully deployed and considerably more accessible, it also represents the band's ability to refine their sound and clarify their vision. All of the elements that had previously been present in Dirty Projectors records are present and accounted for. The melodies are as original as any Longstreth has written, and the arrangements make for a record that is as unique as it is brilliant.

So, if you haven't gotten the picture yet, we really love this record. In a world where even the most amazing musicians seem to tip their hats to their predecessors, Dirty Projectors couldn't be more original. They've simply created a sound that is opens up new possibilities, and makes you glad that there's still more music to be made. There's no doubt that this record will encourage its share of copycats, and also bring the band even further into the spotlight. But all that aside, the repercussions of Dirty Projectors' work isn't really what's on our mind. We're far more excited about the new plateau they've found themselves on, and hearing where they go next.

Bitte Orca is out tomorrow, Dirty Projectors are at The Independent July 7th

mp3: Dirty Projectors - Stillness Is The Move