Brooklyn's Dirty Projectors performed at the Troubadour last night for the first time since their wildly imaginative, critically heralded new album Bitte Orca was released. The last time they played LA the band was supporting their previous album, Rise Above, a fucked-up re-imagining of Black Flag's seminal Damaged album. At that show, at the Echoplex, they seemed a little too big for their britches, nobly attempting to achieve jerky precision, learning to wend West African guitar lines but not quite syncing it up. It was cool, and it was memorable, but it didn't really feel like they had connected all the dots.
So last night at the Troubadour, after a killer, angular set by fellow Brooklynites What's Up, the six Projectors stepped onstage to present their new stuff. From the first note, the band nailed it. It seems that their sound has become more tightly wound; they converge where they once collided. They seemed absolutely rehearsed.
It was pretty impressive, actually. Lead singer and guitarist Dave Longstreth writes weird, prog-rocky songs, like Adrian Belew-era King Crimson but with more funk and art damage. The songs jerk and roam to places most pop/rock music fears to tread. Their music is hard, almost difficult, but it's also absolutely beautiful.
That beauty arrives in the form of the three women of Dirty Projectors, who trade instruments and voices like jugglers floating a dozen knives, who are so precise in both pitch and meter that you can feel the rehearsals, the time spent running through the notes. "Useful Chamber" sounds like a collision of Yes, Fairport Convention and Bjork. "No Intention" featured Amber Coffman's shockingly sturdy voice. Multi-instrumentalist Angel Deradoorian, sporting an awesome Spacemen 3 shirt, offered wildly inspired counter-vocals and keyboard undercurrents.
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And then there's Longstreth, who has the neck of a college quarterback. When he stretches his voice his veins pop out like they're ready to burst. That voice takes some getting used to; some people hate it, and I understand why. But I like it, and think it's a refreshing change of pace from the typical rock vocalist. It's no wonder David Byrne likes this band so much. They're great. They're different. They make sense, except when they don't.