Dirty Projectors’ “Bitte Orca” excels

Best album of 2009? Watch out, “Merriweather Post Pavilion.”

PHOTO COURTESY DOMINO

Ashley Goetz

PHOTO COURTESY DOMINO

Dirty Projectors ALBUM: âÄúBitte OrcaâÄù LABEL: Domino For those unfamiliar with Dirty Projectors, imagine taking two Mariah Careys and a man whose vocal range might suggest a lack of testicles and combining them with the lush experimentation of Grizzly Bear. In reality, the band is a Brooklyn-based group with a high turnover rate, their list of ex-members reading like film credits. On their current release, âÄúBitte Orca,âÄù the key members of the group are David Longstreth, Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, who just released her own album, âÄúMindraft,âÄù in May. Dirty ProjectorâÄôs last album, âÄúRise AboveâÄù was an eclectic remake of Black FlagâÄôs âÄúDamaged,âÄù reinterpreted through their old memories into a soft blend of flying vocals and minimalistic electric guitars. If completely turning inside out the aesthetic of Black FlagâÄôs burly, masculine sound makes them sound artsy, thatâÄôs because they are. Their soundscape is what the phrase âÄúhead in the cloudsâÄù might sound like translated into music, mostly because their voices constantly wander into impossibly high octaves and have the courage to stay there and stretch out. The band ditches the idea of having a central concept to an album with âÄúBitte Orca,âÄù instead proving that their sound is distinct enough to tie several wandering, non-traditional tracks into a cohesive whole. With a title that combines the German word for âÄúpleaseâÄù with a type of whale, this album is more into impressions and wanderings than concrete structures and meanings. In fact, itâÄôs the vague, blissful randomness of their lyrics that cements the bandâÄôs serene mystique. In the addictive track âÄúTemecula Sunrise,âÄù the main narrative centers on LongstrethâÄôs house, and him inviting someone to live in his basement. At first itâÄôs easy to put a picture together when he sings, âÄúI live in a new construction home/I live in a strip beyond the dealership,âÄù but then it melts into cooed phrases like âÄútemperature rising âĦ what hits the spot like Gatorade?âÄù and loses all sense toward the end when he sings, âÄúthe face of earth will be white âĦ Indian paintbrush.âÄù Tip for listeners: donâÄôt read the song titles. They make up the choruses of many tracks, and it is more interesting to interpret them without knowing. (The album title itself is shouted triumphantly at the apex of the album on âÄúUseful Chamber,âÄù where itâÄôs surrounded by walls of vocals as sweet as cherry Kool-Aid.) Trying to guess what Longstreth is saying is like a fun musical Rorschach test. In the track âÄúFlorescent Half Dome,âÄù it sounds like heâÄôs either saying, âÄúfor us, an ab tone,âÄù or âÄúfor innocence, IâÄôve done.âÄù Not only is âÄúBitte OrcaâÄù an album that miraculously lacks any hanger-on tracks or boring moments (although âÄúTwo DovesâÄù will slow the pulse), it also has expertly-crafted standout singles. âÄúStillness is the MoveâÄù is already being posted on blogs left and right. With mildly eastern-sounding electronic strings and LongstrethâÄôs vocals on a hiatus, the track shows off the interplay of Coffman and DeradoorianâÄôs rubber band-elastic voices. The hook (a lot of âÄúahahah hoo oo oosâÄù) plays with the bandâÄôs most intelligible lyrics, which are primarily a girl and a boy but also about how âÄúlife under the sunâÄù is weird. The band gets almost folky on âÄúThe Bride,âÄù which starts with acoustic guitar and hand claps. A few moments later, their effortless cool quickly oozes in as Longstreth cheerfully sings, âÄúNo one has any good reason to live.âÄù Quickly, the thick electric guitars come back, hand in hand with layers of helium angel choirs. Sonically, âÄúBitte OrcaâÄù finds Dirty Projectors still in their familiar territory, but this time with an expertly-honed talent at whittling adventurous, addicting melodies out of a hi-fi surplus of singing. (4.5 out of 5 stars)