Only one band would cover Black Flag’s “Damaged” by memory: the same band who wrote a vocal suite for Björk and collaborated with David Byrne on a charity compilation less than six months prior. Dirty Projectors frontman Dave Longstreth’s influences range from Nietzsche to Jay-Z, and it shows on their latest, Bitte Orca, one of the year’s most unclassifiable releases.
Dirty Projectors (the band once had, but has since removed “The” from their name) began as Longstreth’s tape-recorded experiments. His rather inaccessible musical exercises eventually built enough momentum to support full-fledged albums like The Getty Address – an opera about Don Henley, ancient Mexico, oil, and post-9/11 America. It sounds like Wagner, it sounds like R. Kelly – it sounds like the future.
But it was only this year that they broke through with Bitte Orca, an album that tempers Longstreth’s more difficult musical tendencies with genuine pop sensibilities. “Stillness Is the Move” combines West African guitar work with Projector Amber Coffman’s R&B vocal delivery, creating one of the strangest party jams of this summer. “No Intention” effortlessly switches between girl-group coos and dissonant noise blasts, with enough time to throw in a percussion-heavy rap verse. “Two Doves” appropriates Nico’s “These Days,” and the result is a moving showcase of Angel Deradoorian’s formidable vocal talents.
In terms of their live show, Dirty Projectors features some good old-fashioned technical prowess. Look out for overwhelming vocal counterpoint between the band’s three female singers in “Remade Horizon.” Meanwhile, Longstreth plays through difficult guitar runs like he washes his hands. The band played last Sunday at Le National for their impressive John Cage-as-MC rock show. They visit Montreal regularly, so make sure to catch them next time they’re in town.