Bitte Orca (06.09, Domino)
Byline: On top of every mountain/There was a great longing/For another, even higher mountain.
For: Talking Heads, Beyonce, Tim Buckley, Grizzly Bear, Merriweather Post-Pavilion
I am going to start this review by stating my unrequited love for Bitte Orca and my inability as a writer to fully do this album justice. Bitte Orca is a powerful record, a perfect pop album in a bizarro universe. Beyonce with her P.H.D in African Musical Studies belting out "Stillness Is the Move" to a packed stadium. Kids starting doo-wop groups so they can harmonize like Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian. This world does not exist, but we do have an artifact. A remnant of a better time. And I have no idea what the album title means. The first exposure I had to the Dirty Projectors was 2007's Rise Above, a collection of completely gutted and rebuilt Black Flag songs played from memory. The complete dismissal of any type of rock sensibilities from each song from the legendary hardcore bands songs left them wide open, displaying a sense of sensitivity, hopefulness, and breathing room that Henry Rollins feigned from in every performance. Then came their legendary pairing with David Byrne on the Dark Was the Night compilation which showed that with some sort of anchor tying them into the world of American popular music they could do just about anything. Then, lo and behold we have a masterpiece on our hands. David Longstreth's compositions, whose origins start completely in the nosebleeds make their way down to the ball field, standing a few inches from the foul line in left field. Bitte Orca takes its cues equally from African polyrythmic god-father Fela Kuti, eccentric 60's folk icon Tim Buckley, modern R & B, and the experimental pop sensibilities of The Talking Heads and TV on the Radio. One great thing about getting married is the sharing of musical tastes, Addy loves Beyonce and Mariah. If it wasn't for a forced exposure I could never have appreciated their musical geniuses and how much they have an impact this album. Longstreth's extensive vocal vamping, which has been a stumbling block to some in the past, is reigned in a little bit. His voice completely dissects what most people are comfortable with in standard tone and pitch. His warble hit several octaves in pitch in the time it takes most singers to deliver a crooned word or two. His voice can turn the most implausible of lines into mantras for living "this is a storm that I don't need no shelter from". Even lines like "What hits the spot, yeah, like Gatorade? You and me baby. Hitting the spot. All night" are completely compelling, but sound laughable out of context. The shared/backing vocals of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian have a certain diva-like quality that provide the coup de grace of the whole experience. Their expertly harmonized, and at times totally disparate vocals, fill in where a cymbal should be, or a bass line, or whatever standard trope we have learned to identify with pop music. Then, the guitar, man, Dirty Projectors can shred. Like Eddie Van Halen style shred. Like the return of the guitar solo shred. Like, I want to rewind that and listen to it again type shred. Whew. I love this album, totally one the most rewarding experiences I have had all summer. 2009 is a year where previously unrelateable bands (to the general populous) have embraced pop music and shown us how powerful an embrace of our musical culture can be.