By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Longstreth has maintained this “theory” on inspiration long enough to defend against allegations of being a ruthless deconstructionist. We should probably just start believing him. Even so, it can be tough to imagine anyone’s muse naturally leading him to an album (2005’s The Getty Address) that takes Don Henley as its protagonist and leads him through a tale referencing both the fall of the Aztecs and 9/11. Equally challenging is the idea that 2007’s Rise Above emerged as Longstreth’s attempt to recreate Black Flag’s Damaged, a favorite record of his teenage years, completely from memory. He hasn’t made it easy to fall in love with Dirty Projectors — until now.
This new record is different. It’s also the same. Those distracting high concepts (since done away with) were ultimately always subordinate to what was going on aurally, and Bitte Orca basks freely in the weird little musical meanderings that made earlier Projectors releases promising but difficult. The album shows no overt signs of wanting to play in the mainstream, and yet it is accessible and sports not one, but two killer singles. “Temecula” and “Stillness” are arguably even easier to love than recent submissions from Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective. To toss in yet another artsy Brooklyn band (with whom DP just toured), Bitte Orca is as exciting as TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain, but as listenable as that band’s 2008 release, Dear Science.
It’s been a big year for Longstreth, who’s collaborated with both David Byrne and Björk in the past months. He and the Talking Heads founder co-wrote two songs for Red Hot’s recent Dark Was the Night compilation (“Knotty Pine” made it on; “Ambulance Man” became a B-side), and performed them live at Radio City Music Hall on May 3. Not five days later, for New York’s Housing Works charity, Dirty Projectors and Björk performed a seven-part vocal suite that Longstreth composed specifically for the occasion (in 10 days, no less). Considering each of these luminaries’ long-running commitment to pushing musical boundaries, I ask Longstreth if he soaked up some gravitas in the process.
“There was no excellence groomed and maintained,” he writes back, “just an undeniable, almost awkward kind of presence — very cool.”
“What was one thing you learned from working with them?” I reply.
Bzzzzzzzz. Bzzzzzzzz. “Say something else,” he replies, rejecting my question.
If David Longstreth is the obsessive intellectual he’s often accused of being, all of this might be a bit too much for potential fans to bear — an existential clusterfuck of pretty supreme proportions. And that might be why he’s hesitant to get on the phone. On the other hand, if Longstreth fits the label of blindly indulgent egoist that he’s also frequently saddled with, he’s most likely having a field day, running around wide-eyed through a wonderland of his own haphazard design. Though I feel a little slighted by the text absurdity, I’ll argue for the latter on the basis of a glimpse of that happy fool in a message received on day one of this interview adventure: “I’m really sorry. Soundcheck turned into a big jam with Vieux Farka Touré! Can we talk tomorrow?” Who would I be to shoot down the flaming dove?
The Dirty Projectors perform at the Troubadour on Wednesday, July 8.