By: Dan Ettinger
Dirty Projectors :: 10.22.09 :: The Black Cat:: Washington, DC
Dirty Projectors' critically acclaimed 2009 release Bitte Orca has won them a diverse fan base, including the likes of former Talking Heads frontman and current bicyclist extraordinaire David Byrne. They even wowed ?uestlove and The Roots backstage before their October 28 appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Singer-songwriter Dave Longstreth has surrounded himself with some considerable talent, including mustachioed bassist Nat Baldwin, drummer Brian Mcomber, and a triumvirate of incredible (and cute!) female singers who each had their share of the spotlight. It's fair to say that while the Projectors all play off each other seamlessly, there is no argument as to who is the leader. "It is Dave's group," explains Angel Deradoorian (guitar, bass, keyboard, samples) in a recent JamBase interview. "It's been his project for a long time." His leadership was evident throughout the evening, as he was the only member of the group that remained onstage for the entire show. He deftly directed traffic with his left handed finger-picking, at times melodically emphasizing the downbeat while Mcomber forged on.
After a rousing set by opening band The Givers, Dirty Projectors began shyly with Orca track "No Intentions." Swirling guitar riffs met a basic drumbeat and subtly hinted at what would transpire over the next 90 minutes. The second tune, "Remade Horizon," sounded at times like Battles' hectic "Race:In" and showcased for the first time the astoundingly complex vocal interplay of Deradoorian, Amber Coffman, and Haley Dekle.
Longstreth spoke about the Projectors' emphasis on vocals in a July 2009 interview with Pitchfork.com: "What we want to do is to make music that feels good, and feels expressive - even as it does so in a new vocabulary."
This new vocabulary was evident in the band's diversity of sound; highlighted by the use of a thirteenth century technique called hocketing overlayed guitar lines that could have been borrowed from West Africa's kora tradition. Yet abruptly, the instrumental "Ascending Melody" dropped into some serious funk. The jam band fan in me wanted the group to extend this one, but they kept the song under five minutes.
Never was the group's diverse sound more evident than in the middle of the set, where re-imagined Black Flag tracks "Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie" and "Police Story" were sandwiched between acoustic beauties "Two Doves" and "The Bride." The Rise Above songs were self-indulgent and nihilistic, while the two Orca tunes evoked romantic images by sounding ethereal and peaceful. "Doves" was simply gorgeous; Longstreth provided the muse by softly strumming an old classical guitar. Despite some unwanted microphone feedback (to which Longstreth chuckled at mid-song as if to say, "Really? On this song?"), Deradoorian's voice did truly sound angelic. Before her solo, she triumphantly pumped her fist and proclaimed, "We finally get to play upstairs!"
|Dirty Projectors by Greg Neate|
Baldwin added an upright bass for "The Bride," which wasn't his only moment to shine. Manning his electric for the electro-indie pop sensation "Stillness is the Move," Baldwin mimicked a lead guitar to give the song a bouncy feel that should have made the crowd move a little more than it actually did. Show closer "Useful Chamber" was raw and explosive. At times, the mish-mash of polyrhythms, odd tempos, dropped beats, and Longstreth's obsession with dissonance gave the group a chaotic sound, as if they were teetering on the edge of a sonic cliff. They never did fall off, always pulling together masterfully at the perfect moment, leaving everyone in the room with an understanding smile (think of the breakdown in Flecktones live staple "Stomping Grounds").
Admittedly, Longstreth's crooning was occasionally abrasive, however, it was difficult not to admire the group's effort and passion. It was clear that not only do they love what they do but they are damn good at it, too. Following a stellar encore that included their Byrne collaboration "Knotty Pine," there was no question that Dirty Projectors are as tight and unique a band as any currently touring.
Dirty Projectors :: 10.22.09 :: The Black Cat :: Washington, DC
No Intention, Remade Horizon, Ascending Melody, Temecula Sunrise, Fucked for Life, Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie, Two Doves, The Bride, Police Story, Cannibal Resource, Stillness is the Move, Useful Chamber
E: Fluorescent Half Dome, When the World Comes to an End, Knotty Pine
Dirty Projectors are on tour now; dates available here.
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