Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
Release Date: June 9th, 2009
Record Label: Domino
I've been watching a lot of basketball lately. As I type, Game 2 of the Dallas-Denver series is whittling down its first few minutes, Atlanta having just fulfilled a widely prophesied loss against Cleveland at home. Other than tuning in to TNT with a Lunchable or egg sandwich within reach each night, this summer really hasn't brought any promise of a job, a vacation, or a large budget movie that is not a remake/sequel/reinterpretation. This isn't a pity party, though, as Dirty Projectors have livened things up enough. Bitte Orca is David Longstreth and company's new album, followup to the incredible Rise Above and easily one of the best albums I've heard in a long, long time.
The band's prior full-length The Getty Address, though good, was sparse, difficult, and a little unnerving with all of the Hollywoodish orchestral swoons. I put the unnotable song “Ponds and Puddles” on a mix CD for my girlfriend’s car, only to find a week later that she has a knee-jerk reaction whenever it comes on to reach for the skip button. So much for the integrity of my quasi-conceptual mixes I guess. With Bitte Orca, however, one would be hard-pressed to skip any of the songs. Attaining a more accessible sound without compromising uniqueness is a kind of progression in my book, and if this notion is shared by more than just myself then we have one of the year’s biggest follow-ups on the verge of release. Back-up singers (use the term loosely in this case) Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian are given more pasture to graze, more lilly pads from which to leap , more gazelles to maul – follow me on this, they are fucking animals when it comes to their contribution to this band and album. Never before have I heard such angular, serpentine, and all-around beautiful delivery; reference “Remade Horizon.” Though tempting sirens they may be, Longstreth isn’t without a spotlight because he coordinated this album after all, though his singing ability could have also stood on its own.
Opener “Cannibal Resource” introduces the unusually upbeat nature of the album with the band’s gorgeously jagged chorus of Amber & Angel backing David’s hopeful observations: “Look around at everyone/Everyone looks alive and waiting/The wind is up the stars are out/The sun is calm and the light is fading.” Single and long-ago-lauded as a prophecy for the album’s excellence, “Stillness is the Move” finds Amber Coffman manning the lead vocals with indelible, starry-eyed splendor. The song could very well be a cappella, but a lightly caffeinated guitar and subtle symbol work accompanies. The following song, “Two Doves”, is where Angel steps in where Amber stepped out, and I dare say with better results. Where “Stillness is the Move” is jittery and unpredictable at times, “Two Doves” is docile and wonderfully driven by swelling violins and woodsy acoustic guitar work. “Useful Chamber”, one of my personal favorites on the album, is an incredible composition: electronic waves swim around Longstreth’s voice like rays of sunshine on a man in the park, an interlude signifies Pandora’s Box beginning to creep open, and a loud chorus of “BITTE ORCA, ORCA BITTE/BITTE ORCA, ORCA BITTE” erupts into full-on orgasm. I absolutely support this song for use in a mix; your girlfriend will not be skipping it in favor of Casiotone’s “Toby, Take a Bow” anytime soon.
Besides a new Pynchon novel being released somewhere on the horizon, Inglorious Bastards still a ways away, and a rumored Sunny Day Real Estate tour – Bitte Orca is about the best piece of media this summer is offering. Dirty Projectors, before now, were a choice much like ordering a Sweetwater IPA – a decision you could only see through if you were in a particular mood, preferably an eccentric one. With this new album, however, as I am predicting with this new Pynchon novel, Dirty Projectors have opened up a bit more to their audience, their sound is more universal but as exclusive as with previous albums – essentially, no other band right now sounds like these guys. For all of you Drew Beringers out there, go ahead and add this to your bullet-point Album of the Year list. For the rest of you, keep and open mind for ‘09s future releases, but don’t expect to be as impressed as you will be with Bitte Orca.