Review Summary: "I was trying to widen the temperament of the band a little bit, to be Dirty Projectors but also have these new, different sort of flowers within the bouquet of the sound." lol
Just as all great experimental indie bands (see: Animal Collective) have done, Dirty Projectors have made a profession out of venturing into the depths of the avant-whatever while still throwing out shards of accessibility to lure more reluctant listeners. Without a doubt, frontman David Longstreth is the driving force behind this kind of gambit, acting as the band's main decision-maker. Ever since his 2002 bedroom-recordings debut The Graceful Fallen Mango
, Longstreth has made a point to insert whatever prog impulses he feels like, without paying too much mind to the demands of his ostensibly small audience. The only thing that kept most of us listening was the fact that Longstreth's songwriting was also sporadically excellent, and his impulses sometimes delightful. Bitte Orca
, maybe/maybe-not the 7th studio album in the band's confusing career, thankfully shows off more of the former and makes sure the latter is mostly used to the band's advantage.
As such, Bitte Orca
is a exploration of great songwriting that is undercut by multiple irritants. First, there are the exasperating misrhythms on display throughout: on "Temecula Sunrise", it works relatively well, not distracting from the song's bright melodies; on the otherwise-excellent "Two Doves", it acts simply as an escape from the tyranny of 4/4. Secondly, we have the still-annoying "prog" impulses, which ruin the awesomely slinky funk beat that opens "Useful Chamber" by throwing together a masturbatory guitar-skronk "chorus" ("Bitte orca / orca bitte"). From there, the song gets lost in a lack of structure, showing that Longstreth has yet to fully grasp the concept of restraint. The same problem also violates "Remade Horizon", which stretches out a hiccuping section of "ooh"s much too long for comfort.
In spite of all these nuisances, however, the band let their positive aspects shine through enough to distract from the fact that this isn't the second coming of prog-pop (on that note, 'sup Mew"). Pleasures are everywhere: opener "Cannibal Resource" has easily the best three-part harmony you're likely to hear in recent times (courtesy of cuties Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle), "Temecula Sunrise" spins confusing rhythms into a sunny pop opus, and you've probably all heard about how awesome the R&B stomp "Stillness is the Move" is (hint: it's really awesome). The band also do a lot of genre-hopping here, and though some experiments are more successful than others, they show a general respect and knowledge for everything they try out (and even a lust for exploring genres not yet created).
The album's best moment is "Two Doves", which (mostly) strips away the rest of the album's avant-garde ideals to let Angel Deradoorian deliver a confession of undisguised love among beautiful guitar plucks and string swells. It's a surprising and affecting moment, and one that shows that, despite what some may claim, Dirty Projectors aren't done evolving. Bitte Orca
is just a comforting affirmation that they're on their way.