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Progressive Rock Update With Brad Houser: Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

Meet Brad Houser

I tend to use superlatives a lot. If I try to use them to describe Dirty Projectors, I will run out very quickly and start repeating myself. After all, how many times can one use the words “awesome, unbelievable, genius, stupendous, revolutionary,” etc. without sounding like a moron? (Perhaps I’m already there).

Having heard fellow musicians talk about this band, I decided to investigate.

Dirty Projectors are a Brooklyn-based unit masterminded by vocalist/ guitarist David Longstreth. They defy categorization, although the term “progressive” fits perfectly, as in progressed far beyond anyone else in the rock/pop/whatever field of music. One feature of the music that sticks out to my ears is the backing vox of Angel Derdoorian and Amber Coffman, assisted by Haley Dekle. Their vocals remind me of the Bulgarian Women’s Choir, who rose to fame in the early 90’s. Close harmonies, often a whole step apart, sung as one mind powering three throats. Longstreth has been known to conduct 12-hour vocal rehearsals……..! That does not sound far -fetched, given the degree of precision in these performances. No auto-tune, and this recording does not smell like Pro Tools. It smells like Vision and Hours of Rehearsal.

Bass-wise, Nat Baldwin handles the duties (privileges) on three tracks, with either Longstreth or Angel Derdoorian doing the rest. Track notes are sparse. There is not a lot of bass on this recording. What little there is has a slight McCartney-esque flavor to it. On the rare occasion when the full bass/drums kick in the effect is somewhat led Zeppelin-ish, as on “Useful Chamber”.

The real game here is in the guitar work, composition, and arrangements. David Longstreth, as a guitarist, has elements of early Yes-era Steve Howe, Zoot Horn Rollo ( Bill Harkleroad) of Captain Beefheart fame, and………..Asian Folk Music. Japanese koto as played on a Fender Stratocaster. YouTube viewing reveals his penchant for Strats played upside-down, lefty, like Jimi. Longstreth is one of the most startlingly visionary guitarists of our day. Southern rock posers and cookie-cutter downtuning metalheads please step aside. Vocally he is precise and soulful, with a bit of Jeff Buckley/ Thom Yorke for good measure. At times Dirty Projectors’ sound is reminiscent of Close to the Edge-era Yes. Beyond that, I haven’t a clue. Perhaps Yes, with Asian-folk-Beefheart guitars, and Bulgarian women’s vocals. Great! A new genre is born in modern music………
My tour guide to this music was John Speice IV, an Austin DrumGod and renaissance fellow. He informed me that their live show in Austin last month Completely Represents the recorded version, and was downright transcendent. Especially stunning were the backing vocals, apparently. I myself “discovered” them a couple of weeks later, having missed the live show. I eagerly await the opportunity to see these wizards in the live realm.

Buy/download this music. Seriously. I didn’t like it that much at first, then……….boom.

Best Regards, BH

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