DIRTY PROJECTORS – Bitte Orca (Domino)

This is Brooklyn-based Dirty Projectors fifth album, but the first that I – and I suspect many other people – have tried. Mostly it was the stories of David Longstreth’s meandering vocals that put me off. If David Byrne thinks he has a weird voice then that is enough for me. For this release he had reined in the more outlandish aspects of his voice, and the result is an album that is eminently listenable. ‘Cannibal Resource’ introduces us to the new sound, and its jerky rhythms and Teletubbies backing vocals (eh-oh, eh-oh) result in a summery pop song that I wasn’t quite expecting. ‘Temecula’ is a bit looser, with the Beefheartian feel of the music sounding out of place against Longstreth’s vocals. ‘The Bride’ is another song that employs strange time signatures, with the music speeding up for a few seconds then slowing right down again, all with that odd voice intoning the lyrics over the top. ‘Stillness Is The Move’ is the track that has been getting a lot of press recently, and tellingly it is one on which Amber Coffman takes lead vocal. Musically it also adds in a healthy dose of R’n’B stylings and ends up sounding like a Timbaland collaboration. It shows that Longstreth can write and produce commercial songs if he wants, as well as the more off the wall stuff. ‘Two Doves’ is another song gifted to Amber, this time an acoustic ballad with subtle use of strings, while ‘Useful Chamber’ throws together a disparate collection of styles, starting with gently picked guitars, adding in some Zep riffs, followed by heavy metal guitar, acappella harmonies, and more guitar thrash which all take their turn in this six and a half minute epic. It shouldn’t really work, and yet it does, which is testament to Longstreth’s vision of the song. ‘No Intention’ adds some slap-beats to the mix, and the infectious rhythm, harmony vocals from the girls, and an intriguing African sounding guitar solo make it an oddly commercial song. ‘Remade Horizon’ is another song with a distinct King Sunny Ade influence, mostly noticeable in the use of Amber and Angel’s backing vocals, and the spidery guitar sounds that Longstreth coaxes from his instrument. ‘Florescent Half Dome’ has a great drum sound, where they suddenly erupt from nowhere then sink back waiting for another opportunity to break through. Add in a restrained vocal performance and more lush backing from Amber and Angel and you have a fine end to the album. This is most definitely not the sort of album that you love on first hearing – there is just so much going on here that it takes quite a while before you begin to appreciate the complexities of these songs. Give it a chance, though, and it will impress you with the sheer diversity and excellence of the song-writing, and the skill with which the band bring them to life.
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