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Bitte Orca

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Album Review

Dirty Projectors' mastermind Dave Longstreth appears to be attracted to sounds that will simultaneously draw in and confound the average listener; he has a clear, sweet voice and a gift for well-crafted harmonies and melodies that bring out the innate beauty of his music, but he often weds them to fractured time signatures that cause the songs to shift gear at the least expected moments, and he tosses in sudden bursts of atonal skronk that are either bracing or puzzling depending on your point of view. Released in 2009, Bitte Orca certainly follows in this tradition, and there's enough aural shape-shifting on this set to keep anyone guessing on first listen. Despite that, in many respects Bitte Orca is one of Dirty Projectors' most accessible efforts to date; the slinky "Stillness Is the Move" could almost pass for mainstream R&B with its potent groove, lush harmonies by Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, and elegant string coda, though with Longstreth's wiry juju guitar leads floating over the top, this ain't quite Beyoncé, and the placid semi-folkie grace of "Two Doves" (which bears a certain melodic resemblance to a-ha's MTV-driven hit "Take on Me") is truly lovely even when the dramatic dynamics of the string section seem intent on calling attention to some darker undercurrents. On the other side of the coin, there's "Useful Chamber," which combines bent vocal samples, wheezing synthesizers, steadily chugging beatboxes, and sudden blasts of overdriven electric guitar to form a pocket concerto of beauty and noise, and "The Bride," where Longstreth's guitar hops back and forth between polite acoustic strum, bluesy slide work, and shards of noise while the rhythm section tries to keep up and the vocals drift past the foreground like a cloud. Bitte Orca's nine tracks all seems to be bursting with ideas that they can barely contain, but despite the sometimes fractured synapses of this music, the songs are at once surefooted and agile, and "Remade Horizon" and "No Intention" are joyous and funky in their own curious way, and you can dance to them if you're in the right frame of mind. Dave Longstreth isn't quite trying to make things easy for his listeners on Bitte Orca, but there's far too much pleasure in this music for its eccentricities to put off anyone who is open to its gleeful, eclectic internationalist heart. [In 2010, Domino Records released a special edition of Bitte Orca with deluxe packaging and a second disc of bonus material. The bonus disc leads off with Longstreth, Coffman, and Deradoorian performing five songs from the album in a special acoustic concert; stripped to their essentials, the melodies of these tunes are all the more strikingly beautiful, and the interaction between the vocalists is sublime. The other six tracks are B-sides and outtakes from the Bitte Orca sessions, including a propulsive remix of "Stillness on the Move," a fine cover of Bob Dylan's "As I Went Out One Morning," and the almost title track "Bitte Bitte Orca," which turns out to be a short fragment arranged for strings. The extras aren't quite strong enough that most folks who own Bitte Orca should consider buying it a second time, but hardcore fans will be pleased with the additional material, and if you missed this excellent album on first release, the expanded version is well worth your attention.]


Formed: 2002 in Brooklyn, NY

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Dirty Projectors are the project of Dave Longstreth, a former Yale student who left college to become one of the most prolific and unique indie singer/songwriters of the early 2000s. In early 2002 Longstreth released his first album, The Graceful Fallen Mango, under his own name on the This Heart Plays Records imprint. Largely recorded on four-track with the help of friends in like-minded projects such as Wolf Colonel and Dear Nora, the album introduced Longstreth's distinctive crooning voice and...
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Bitte Orca, Dirty Projectors
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