Time transforms all. That’s especially the case when you’re in your twenties, as every couple years can feel like a sea change.
Just ask Angel Deradoorian. A seasoned indie rocker at 29, she’s accomplished a lot over the years. She’s honed her chops as a member of Dirty Projectors. She’s dished out squiggly psych jams in Animal Collective offshoot Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks. And now she’s summoning greater depths on her new solo album, The Expanding Flower Planet — a spellbinding document of personal growth.
When the singer/multi-instrumentalist first put out a solo effort — 2009’s Mind Raft EP — Barack Obama was just entering presidential office. “Chillwave” wasn’t even a word yet. Most everybody still loved Bill Cosby. This was only six years ago, of course, and yet it was six years ago!
Naturally, Deradoorian has grown as well. If the tracks on Mind Raft were rich and scrappy and potent, listening to them now in comparison to The Expanding Flower Planet is like watching black-and-white TV versus high-def.
“It was the first focused time for me to write that way, where it was very intentional and set out to complete a record — as opposed to the EP, where it was just a collection of songs that I’d made over time,” Deradoorian says of the new record. “It was a whole endeavor of just trying to figure out what I liked and how I was going to put it all together.”
The new album, which came out on Anticon last week and is billed under the name Deradoorian, finds its creator weaving together a broad range of sounds. “A Beautiful Woman” rides on a ’60s psych groove reminiscent of Silver Apples. “Violet Minded” unfurls with a sweep of her crystal clear, multi-part vocal harmonies. The beautifully complex “Komodo” begins with a Middle Eastern melodic figure — one of many nods on the album to Deradoorian’s Armenian heritage and interest in global sounds in general — before transitioning into an arrangement of vocals and organs guided by a gentle pulsing beat.
Doing this wasn’t easy. She performed most of the music herself, harboring few expectations and no grandiose vision. But with the help of guest drummers and vocalists, as well as engineer/co-producer Kenny Gilmore, she was able to develop her own intimate creation.
“Once I started working with other people it was really fun, because it was a lot easier,” she says. She’s lounging in a wicker chair in the patio area of an Echo Park café on a picturesque summer morning. The sun is shining bright. Children’s laughter carries over from the playground of a Montessori school across the street. She looks self-assured but mellow in a flower print blouse and colorful horn-rimmed shades.
“The whole writing process was really volatile — ups and downs, hot and cold kind of experience,” she adds. “Because it’s like creating everything out of thin air. But then when you go into the next process, it’s like, ‘OK, it’s all there now. Now it’s time to start having the fun.’”
Lyrically, the album reflects on Deradoorian’s journey of personal and philosophical discovery. It delves into themes of metaphysics, oneness, and sources of wisdom — all popular topics among the many Namaste-mumbling yogis and new age types of Los Angeles, the city Deradoorian’s called home for just over three years. Yet she’s hesitant to talk about any of this stuff too much in an interview, lest she come off as some wannabe guru.
“I don’t really like the idea of hardened opinions, even though I’m sure I have some of them,” she says. “I think as I get older, I’m learning that there’s so many facets to any kind of philosophy or belief system or who you are as a person that you’re never going to fully grasp. It’s just so complicated. Especially when you just have your life, and you’re yourself and you experience everything from you. You just can’t empathize with everything. And you can’t understand how someone else feels all the time, and they can’t understand how you feel.”
As Deradoorian points out, knowledge isn't a concrete thing. It’s malleable and sometimes invisible, manifest in countless detours and epiphanies. Of course this only encourages her to keep seeking. In album closer “Grow” she embraces the idea of reaching beyond oneself to be better equipped to learn and help each other. Her voice is coated in slapback delay as she murmurs the title over and over, letting the word “grow” stretch out like a tree root.
“I’m just a student of life. That’s kind of how I view myself,” she says. “Not that I can’t do stuff, because I know how to make music, and I know how to write words. It’s just a constant discovery.”