Dave Longstreth is an antsy dude. The driving force behind experimental indie-rock band Dirty Projectors, Longstreth is always shifting his lineup to accomodate his ever-evolving sound. It often makes for albums that share the same basic aural sensibilities, yet they differ just enough to act as a triumph over the previous effort. David Byrne, a recent collaborator with the band (on the song "Knotty Pines," from the recent Dark Was The Night compilation, the MP3 of which can be found here), sums up best what it is Dirty Projectors bring to the indie rock scene, "Completely strange and oddly familiar at the same time." I really couldn't have said it better myself -- and this sentiment is what makes the band's newest album, Bitte Orca, a refreshingly strange offering amid the sea of conventional indie rock music.
Right from the opening track, "Cannibal Resource," Longstreth's influence is felt and -- once his kinda dorky-sounding, yet comforting vocals kick in -- it is also heard. He sings to us, imploring us to, "Look around at everyone / Everyone looks alive and waiting." It's a cheery little stanza, and it is the perfect barometer for an album that jumps around from jangly acoustic guitars, staggering drums, resplendent violins and even the occasional hand-clap -- such a under-utilized tool in today's music, but when it's used, it always comes off pretty remarkable.
"Temecula Sunrise" continues on with what Bitte Orca is out to prove: that indie rock can shed convention and reach for sounds often distant from what is considered as part of the genre -- yet the effort can still be enjoyable without being totally weird and alienating for casual listeners. The song trundles along, a perfect mess of variegated drumming and fuzzy rock guitars that sound like they belong on the Sunset Strip circa 1984. "Temecula Sunrise" accomplishes a lot -- perhaps way too much -- in its 5+ minutes, yet Longstreth's vocals hold it all together, acting as the guiding light in a vast sea of complex instrumentals.
The album's lead single, "Stillness is the Move," sees a shift in vocals, with Amber Coffman taking over and injecting the song with her soulful, quirky vocals. She's certainly got the chops to carry the song, and carry the song she does. It's a blank song, lacking any real funky or eclectic instrumentation, thus making way for Coffman to step in and take charge of things. There's a hint of Björk in her singing, with maybe a touch of Aaliyah just for good measure. All comparisons aside, her singing ultimately gives way to a beautiful violin solo -- quite a pleasant departure. "Stillness is the Move" blends perfectly with the album's next track, "Two Doves," carrying over that violin with some beautiful acoustic guitar. It's hearing these two songs, opposite in their aesthetic and their sound -- yet right next to each other on the album -- where all bets for Bitte Orca are called off. It's impossible to pigeonhole the album, and it's delightfully useless, as well. Longstreth and company would rather you just sit back, relax, and take in the barrage of their avant-garde/experimental/indie rock offering.
Bitte Orca is out today on Domino Records. Check out Dirty Projector's myspace page for more information about the band.
For your listening pleasure I've included the songs "Cannibal Resource" and "Stillness is the Move," available via lala.