DIRTY PROJECTORS – Bitte Orca (2009)

The Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca Whoever said that madness and genius are separated only by degrees of success didn’t have the precognition to foresee Bitte Orca. And I can’t really blame them – I mean, I missed it, too. When last we left Dirty Projectors, they took a hardcore classic (Black Flag’s seminal 1981 debut, Damaged) and attempted to reinterpret/reconstruct it from start to finish, despite principal songwriter Dave Longstreth having not heard the record in nearly 15 years. Listening to that album, I couldn’t help but think of Raoul Duke from the film version of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas: “There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. Too weird to live. Too rare to die.” Now, with Bitte Orca, the band seem as deranged as Duke and Gonzo roaring past Barstow at the beginning of the story, tossing a wide array of musical elements and fragments at each other with a blatant, almost gleeful disregard for logistics, structure or correctness. As a result, Bitte Orca is an album that’s as wildly unpredictable as it is endlessly fascinating.

You can hear bits and pieces of certain musical influences on Bitte Orca – some Architecture in Helsinki here, some later-era Talking Heads there (this makes sense, considering the band’s recent Dark Was The Night collaboration with David Byrne) – but the majority of the album is the way it is because of Longstreth’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for musical feuding. Listen to the way the spasms of Joe Satriani-esque guitar brawl with the unflinching 4/4 drum beat in Temecula Sunrise. Or the way Fluorescent Half-Dome transforms on a dime from weird ambient ballad to a series of staccato vocal stabs, before reverting back to ballad again. Or consider how The Bride (at its beginning and its end) sounds almost like a Devendra Banhart song, save for the middle, wherein something goes horribly (and wonderfully) wrong.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I have a borderline-disturbing affinity for musical that’s anything but normal, so Bitte Orca is right up my alley. I know there’s plenty of people out there who’d be turned off by an album like this; it never sits still, and just when you think you know where it’s going, it switches gears on you, and you’re back to square one. It’s a difficult album to follow, and that’s the quality I admire most about it. If that’s something you’d disagree with, I’d advise you to stay away. I hear Vampire Weekend are working on a new album. Wait for that.

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One Response to “DIRTY PROJECTORS – Bitte Orca (2009)”

  1. […] indie rock. Sure, Animal Collective’s neo-psychedelic fits are kind of out there, and The Dirty Projectors have been known to toss genres genres into a blender and tear through the results, but Xiu Xiu are […]

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