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Thursday, July 16, 2009

David Longstreth takes Dirty Projectors down the less traveled path

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By Chris Parker

Dirty Projectors with Atlas Sound. $12-$14. 9 p.m. Fri., July 17. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. 404-522-3950. www.badearl.com.

Some artists spend their careers forging a unique identity that will sell, while others are more consumed with all the different veins they can explore no matter how confounding it might be for their audience. Count Dirty Projectors among the latter. Originally nothing more than a moniker for David Longstreth’s adventurous compositions, since the release of 2007’s Rise Above it’s become a band entity, and the inspiration for his most readily endearing batch of music, Bitte Orca.

Since Longstreth began releasing music in 2002, he’s employed a variety of musicians in blending elements of electro-pop, R&B, baroque strings and woodwinds, African rhythms and samples into wildly eclectic vocal-driven efforts. A modest underground hum grew to a buzz with the release of Rise Above, a cover of Black Flag’s seminal release written from memory, and recast as avant-indietronica with mechanistic beats and angelic harmonies.

Touring in support of the album he assembled a five-piece band able to bring the album’s elastic, churning tunes and boy/girl vocal melodies to life.

When work began on Bitte Orca, it was with those performers in mind. It's the first time Longstreth’s written for particular players. The tight trilling harmony vocals of guitarist Amber Coffman and keyboardist Angel Deradoorian are one of the album’s strongest features. Their singing holds it together, as the music shudders and convulses, ebbing from shimmery synth and string-supported drift to bristling bursts of noisy guitars and racing polyrhythms, even within a single song such as “Useful Chamber.”

It’s a testament to Longstreth’s compositional skill and ear for intriguing juxtapositions that Bitte Orca succeeds so thoroughly. Even as the listener is thrown into a dynamic sea of sounds, the pretty, evocative vocals are a lifeline whose sustaining thread runs through the album. Longstreth has said that after the nihilistic undercurrent of Rise Above, he was interested in something more upbeat and exultant. It comes though on an album that for all its surprising turns and herky-jerky sonics is impossible to ignore.

With Bitte Orca, Longstreth’s created a wonderfully distinctive sound utterly his own.

(Photo by Sarah Cass)

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