Monday, December 07, 2009

Review: Dirty Projectors, Bitte Orca

Artist: Dirty Projectors
Album: Bitte Orca

From the opening song on Bitte Orca (the somewhat creepily titled “Cannibal Resource”), the listener can immediately tell that Dirty Projectors wants to stand out in every way possible. Along with echoing, almost twangy guitar and David Longstreth’s mournful-sounding voice comes almost poppy background rhythms and, oddest of all, a eerily harmonious chorus of disjointed female voices—band members Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman—singing wordlessly. This song is a mélange of such different elements that somehow all work together, indicative of the band’s quirky style. Even the lyrics represent an innate kookiness, ranging from the lovely (“Two Doves”) to the fantastical (“Stillness is the Move”). As “Stillness is the Move” asks, “Isn’t life under the sun just a crazy dream?” Isn’t the life just a mirage of the world before the world?”

              That is exactly Dirty Projectors: a crazy dream. Everything, from the beats and instruments that produce them to the cadence of the singers’ voices to the words sung, has an element of fantasy. And it is that makes Bitte Orca such an original album. Take one of the more imaginative songs, “The Bride,” for example: the first half of the song is just quiet guitar strumming accompanied by Longstreth’s haunting voice, which creepily laments to the listener that “tears of laughter” (another example of the band’s creative wordplay) that “did pervade / your ambivalent behavior.” But then, a cacophony of instruments cascades forth, punctuated by the chanting of the female backup singers, which brings the song back to its original subdued melody. It is these sudden torrential bursts of guitar, drums, and cymbals—like the “clarion calls” mentioned at the song’s last stanza—that make the song so alive, so surprising, and so captivating.
              However, all of the songs are not so crazily random. “Two Doves,” the song in the absolute middle of the album, provides a respite from all of the chanting and wailing of both voices and instruments. Focusing on the vocals of [one of the female artists], the song is limited to string instruments, adding in Caleb Russell and Andrew Todd on violin and Anna Fritz on the cello to create a beautiful, soulful melody. This tune is the perfect backdrop for the words [the woman] sings, asking her love to “Kiss me with your mouth open / For your love better than wine” and to “Call on me.” Altogether, this is one of the more perfect love songs (and who doesn’t like hearing that their “Hair is like an eagle” and their “two eyes are like two doves”?), reflecting a sensitivity and depth of emotion that one might not necessarily see in the other, more energetic and quirky songs.
              Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear, when recently asked to describe Bitte Orca, said that he “stopped dead in [his] tracks and literally didnt know how to describe it.” This is potentially the best praise one could give the album: it’s so original, so intriguing, just so different that maybe it can’t even be described. Perhaps like the Dada movement or God, seeking a definition ruins the entire essence of it. There are many adjectives—creepy and brilliant and beautiful and mysterious among them—with which one could sum up the album, but no general one. And that’s the best thing about it.
-- Clio Seraphim, "Just You Just Me," Mondays 8-10 A.M.

Listen to "Cannibal Resource" from Bitte Orca:


Anonymous said...

The Dada Movement and GOD. Kudos on two more attempts to try and identify the ever elusive DP. Great review, this album gets my vote for best of the year hands down.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...; You saved my day again.