Brooklyn singer/songwriter David Longstreth is a deconstructionist. He gained a divisive reputation with his project/band Dirty Projectors and its 2007 release, Rise Above, a dismembering of songs from Black Flag's Damaged. The rearranging of the originals was so extreme that it bordered on kitsch. But, from a laptop art school perspective, it was also very punk in its radical attempt of disassembling.
However, Longstreth has taken a slightly mature approach to his own compositions, allowing for more world music influences to seep in, especially Afro-pop -- this is similar to David Byrne's work infusing world music elements with his angular approach to pop. It is no wonder that Byrne, co-founder of the world music label Luaka Bop, recently collaborated with Longstreth on the upbeat "Knotty Pine" for the Red Hot Dark Was the Night collection. Byrne's also been openly praising Dirty Projectors' new release, Bitte Orca. His praises are well founded: Bitte Orca is by far the most accessible Dirty Projectors release, finding the right balance between odd, distorted, prog-esque guitar breaks and tuneful (and slightly exotic) pop melodies.
Longstreth assembled a full band for Bitte Orca featuring Amber Coffman (vocals, guitar), Angel Deradoorian (vocals, keyboard, guitar, bass) and drummer Brian McOmber, all of whom appeared on Rise Above, and adding bassist Nat Baldwin and vocalist Haley Dekle. The band provides a more organic, live performance feel, rather than one that is recorded from a Pro Tools/computer end. Brooklyn producer Nicolas Vernhes, who runs Rare Book Room Studios, captures a clean, dry, yet warm sound.
"Temecula Sunrise," with its mixture of Polynesian/Fahey-esque acoustic guitars, Animal Collective splashes of metallic sound, a Bjork-influenced vocal delivery and Jimmy Page guitar riffage, gives you a quick idea of how Longstreth takes far-flung genres and reassembles them into a singular song.
"The Bride" and "No Intention" (with its economical borrowings of African vocal parts and Nigerian guitar riffs) hint towards another strong influence, aside from the aforementioned Byrne -- XTC's frontman Andy Partridge. These songs carry a heavy aroma of eccentric, British pastoral pop, with a heavy nod towards the eccentric. "Two Doves," unsentimentally sung by Deradoorian with a string accompaniment reminiscent of Nico's version of "These Days," delivers the record's most beautiful piece.
Suffice to say that Bitte Orca does not follow a traditional path toward pop song structure; it requires a little patience to sit down and hear the brilliance of Longstreth's assemblage-like arrangements. In this sense, he is traveling down a similar road with his contemporaries: The Ruby Suns, Animal Collective, AC Newman, Destroyer, Grizzly Bear and St. Vincent -- all of them trying to stretch pop's traditional boundaries. Bitte Orca is a document of how you can achieve this with success.