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Let’s start with the obvious (or at least obvious for anyone who’s heard it): Bitte Orca is, on its own terms, a stunning album. Although the excitement over the record started long before, at least as far back as the first time we’d heard the bright and beautiful “Temecula Sunrise,” it’s fair to say that “Stillness Is The Move” put the anticipation into overdrive. If not for its ample, arty R&B charms and surprising star-turn for the cut’s lead vocalist Amber Coffman, then simply for what it signaled: This was a jam welcoming listeners to the party. In the world of Dirty Projectors, this is a big deal.

Don’t get it twisted: this isn’t a pop record. (It’s not an R&B record, either.) But its nine songs do play like the pay-off for joining Dave Longstreth on his years of recorded self-discovery. Dude’s always had a restless mind: At whichever discographic point of entry you chose, his budding brilliance had been readily apparent, casting a revolving door of adept musicians in service of wildly ambitious, cross-pollinated sonic documents. The Glad Fact presented conventional song lengths cloaked in singular and unconventional songwriting sense (and form); The Getty Address, a concept album about a day in the life of one Don Henley, delved into gothic choral arrangements and snatches of R&B; Slaves’ Graves & Ballads was a split of beautifully composed symphonic pieces and, well, bedroom ballads; and etc.

The New Attitude EP served as a schizophrenic survey of Dirty Projectors previous touchstones, and it also seemed like something of a reboot: With the subsequent, excellent Rise Above LP, Dirty Projectors reemerged as a rock quartet and delivered a “remembered” reworking of Black Flag’s Damaged LP. There were taps to experimental elements of past releases, but they were streamlined for this line-up. The words weren’t Dave’s, but the radically sublime, spiraling, snaking, and thrashing music was nothing but, bringing new light to the hardcore prose as well as the rock quartet’s sonic possibilities. Dave fully embraced his modified soukous-style of guitar playing, lining those fractured shards of six-string with breathtaking vocal arrangements. It jammed.

And Bitte Orca is building on that moment. (See: maintaining Rise Above’s touring line-up: Amber Coffman on guitar, vocals; Angel Deradoorian on bass, vocals; Brian McComber on drums.) Given how obtuse their catalogue has been, the accessibility of “Stillness” can’t be overlooked: It’s their “House Jam,” their “My Girls,” their “Two Weeks”; it’s the moment these Brooklyn-based art rockers gave their listeners a wet, pop-infused kiss. Stylistically it’s an outlier, but spiritually it makes perfect sense as a lead single. You don’t have to go any further than the sunny opening grooves and lyric of lead track “Cannibal Resource” to hear it (“Look around at everyone…”): They want your ears. Instead of warding you off with its compositional heft, Bitte Orca pulls you in with its grooves and upbeat disposition, putting the brilliance in service of savvy structural shifts and peripheral nuance.

The previously heard “Cannibal Resource” and “Temecula Sunrise” set that scene, digging into deep backbeats and a general mode of sunshine. Dave’s dexterous acoustic guitar workout opens “Temecula” before the full band bursts in, colored in no small part by Angel and Amber’s seraphic vocals. There are some gorgeous vocal moments lacing this entire record, really, but the true jaw-dropper comes two-and-a-half minutes into the glorious “Remade Horizon,” when the song’s main motif is deconstructed for one voice, then joined by another and catapulted into the stratosphere. The syncopated, tag-team arpeggiation is dizzying; it’s the sort of moment that makes you remember where you were when you first heard it (we were here), and makes the similar turn on Rise Above’s “Gimme Gimme Gimme” look like kiddie play time.

Every song brings something to the table (“No Intention” is the cousin to “Stillness,” spangly African guitar line underpinning a handclapping groove and, surprise, gorgeous vocals; “The Bride” a shifty and unpredictable classically rooted piece, etc.), but if you want the full thrust of the album’s ambition in one song, cue up the triumphant “Useful Chamber” and sit tight for six-and-a-half minutes. The dissection: warped synths and glissando vocals; fingerpicked guitars interrupted with crashes of electric ones; fat backbeats yielding to skittering bursts of harmonized guitars; a noisy meltdown bleeding into a vocal splay from the sirens that is at first incisive, then caressing. “I’m caught up in a storm that I don’t need no shelter from,” Dave sings. Hey, us too. “All I want and all I need right here with me.” It’s a song about the calming effect of love on a mind moving at warp speed, wrapped in six-and-a-half minutes of pure sonic prowess. One of the lyrics gives the album its name, and that makes a lot of sense. (Also: Brian McComber’s playing here and on all over this album deserves mention, so — consider it mentioned.)

As discussed, the Bitte album cover is a reprise of the 2004 double-EP release Slaves’ Graves & Ballads, casting Amber and Angel in place of Dave’s doodles. This also makes a lot of sense. Not only do Amber and Angel shine on this record, but many of Bitte’s songs fuse Slaves’’ orchestral- and guitar-based halves into a cohesive whole. And nowhere more so than on the Angel-fronted “Two Doves,” setting memorable similes (“Your hair is like an eagle’s, eyes are like two doves / But our bed is like a failure”) to painterly fingerpicking and scurrying orchestral accompaniment. The strings also turn up elsewhere (bowed on “Stillness,” plucked on “No Intention”) but they really wrap the record right on the Prince-ly halftime of “Fluorescent Half Dome,” the album’s soulful sunset. End scene. And start it again.

So yes, you don’t need to know a thing about Dirty Projectors to find this album pleasurable. These are songs first, art experiments second. But with Bitte Orca, the scattershot fuzz of Dave Longstreth’s previous output has snapped startlingly into focus. All the smarts are there, but it’s almost like he finally wants everyone to listen. In him we find a bandleader who fuses the anxious border-crossing intelligence of David Byrne, Frank Zappa’s eye toward progressive arrangement and innovative guitar heroics, and Prince’s ability to make music you might want to fuck to. That’s a mouthful, but there’s a reason he’s getting hugs from indie rock’s elder statesmen and women. This is a great album from a great mind. Listen up.

Bitte Orca is out 6/9 via Domino. “Stillness” is a free MP3 here.

Comments (69)
  1. Nice review, and well described. I’m excited for this one. Oh and am I the only one in the world who can’t seem to find it anywhere in the torrent world?

  2. David Mania  |   Posted on Apr 13th, 2009 0

    I LOVE this album. Love, love, love. Am I the only one who was just floored by “Two Doves?” It’s a highlight for me because it caught me off guard. So simple and gorgeous. The whole album is a gem, too. I’m so happy to have it!

  3. Milo Goes to College  |   Posted on Apr 13th, 2009 0

    What an incredible endorsement. I’ll be sure to listen to this.

  4. it’s available on both bittorrent sites that start with a ‘w.’

  5. zxcvb  |   Posted on Apr 13th, 2009 0

    “Two Doves” sounds like a Nico homage (or Nico-covering-Jackson Browne homage). Aside from the “The Fairest of the Seasons”-style strings and guitar, it evens quotes the one of the song’s best lyrics: “Don’t confront me with my failures…”

  6. Someone say something negative before the hypealanche becomes too heavy and we all have to pretend we hate how mainstream they’ve become. Only we can turn this ship around, people.

  7. JR  |   Posted on Apr 13th, 2009 0

    Stereofork gives Bitte Orca a 9.0.

  8. Tony  |   Posted on Apr 13th, 2009 0

    Oh man I love this band so much I’m really upset that I can’t find this album illegally anywhere before the band actually wanted me to hear it and I could monetarily support a band I love SO MUCH.

  9. Sam  |   Posted on Apr 13th, 2009 0

    First time through I was like “okay, this sounds like Dirty Projectors… and Mariah Carey”. Second time, I was awash in some of the BEST vocal work I’ve heard in a long time and guitar licks reminiscent of Talking Heads. The mixing is excellent too – just the right amount of low bass here and there, and Angel and Amber’s vocals are so… creamy. yeah.

  10. I listened to this album 9 times yesterday. You know that feeling you can get when you’re playing an awesome video game, and you think it’s about to end, but then the clouds part and an entire shining golden ladder of further levels is revealed?
    Yeah, that.

  11. dp  |   Posted on Apr 13th, 2009 0

    I support this review 110%. About the only complaint I have is that I wish it was even longer. The stretch from Stillness > Two Doves > Unusual Chamber is absolutely perfect. And two Doves, wow.I will be buying this the moment it is available.

  12. I am so in love with this album, which is nice cause I haven’t had one of those in a while–albums that make my head ah-splode upon first listen. And yes, it is short but you’ll make it to the end and just play it again, and not be at all disappointed that you’re listening to the same songs again! I thought Silversun Pickups was going to be height of my spring collection, and don’t get me wrong–I also loved it, but not like I love this! awesome awesome awesome.

  13. jesus christ of latter-day saints,i love this album.i’ve only known her for about 4 hours,but i’m truly in love.believe me(really)when i say i will be purchasing it when the date hits.i see some of my dickhead friends that don’t “get” my DP love,finally coming around with this release.alright,i need to go beat off to this album…

  14. Oh, and to borrow from one of my favorite “Gabe-isms” (kinda):

    Mcdonald’s should change their motto to, “I’m Bitte-Orca-in’ it!” cause that’s how much I’m lovin’ it!

  15. ummm  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    1) This album is amazing!

    2) You are a dreadful, dreadful writer…

    ["...put the anticipation into overdrive"/"the cut's lead vocalist"/"Don't get it twisted"/"revolving door"/"sonic documents"/"It jammed"/"set that scene"/"seraphic vocals"/"jaw-dropper"/"catapulted into the stratosphere"/"kiddie play time"/"cue up...and sit tight"/"border-crossing intelligence"]

    ..SHUT UP. STOP IT.

    3) “Stillness Is The Move” is nowhere near the caliber of “My Girls” or “Two Weeks.” It’s not even as good as “Cannibal Resource” or “Useful Chamber.” I know you mean that it’s poppy, but so are those songs…

    4) The Dirty Projectors are the only band ever to sound anything like Talking Heads, other than Talking Heads, and I love it.

    5) This is an AMAZING album.

  16. I realllly can’t find the torrent for this

  17. fif  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    I, for one, welcome our new overlord, Dave Longstreth.

  18. carl  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    Useful Chamber is the jam

  19. steven seagal  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    anyone know where I can get some DP tabs? there’s none on the internet

    • Jon  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

      Really no chance, but I worked out how to play fucked for life and some tracks off rise above. proudest moments of my life

  20. anon  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    awesome awesome awesome awesome

  21. happy!  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    i was kinda hesitant on going to the dirty projectors show at sxsw cause i knew they werent gonna do the black flag covers, and honestly i was only looking to have the best time ever! BUT i went anyways…and was blown away…and i remember that “remade horizon” song…got the shivers like crazy! . Im just thankful that someone is playing a guitar that well! not to mention every other little detail about the band…yaaaay!!! good music!!!

  22. Richie  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    It’s very good.. a sharp, intellectualised take on indie pop with a whole load of other stuff coming into the stew. They’re one of those bands that manages to pull off that sort of composerly technical stuff while still giving the music an emotional heft. It’s not perfect – first half of the album is a bit stronger than the second half, and I don’t think they quite nailed ‘Remade Horizon’ (or maybe the brilliant live take from SXSW that was doing the rounds just raised my expectations too much) but I love the way they’re sounding more like a band as opposed to a ‘project’ and it definately cements their position as one of the more exciting indie groups around for me.

  23. 2009  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    1. Veckatimest
    2. Bitte Orca
    3. MPP

    My ears have never been so happy as 2009

  24. Sean Jean  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    The free mp3 link no longer works :(

  25. Green,Blue,Green on Blue  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    My very first impression of Canibal was Squeezes tempted,,,(reimagined and Picassoized of course)…”Everyday I write the Book” too…the guy who projected his that guys face on the HWY…the best of early 80′s MTVRNB in other words…poor Captain Beefheart…(and that was pre viacom…)

    • mattP  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

      sorry, but what are you talking about?

      i’ve only heard ‘stillness’, but it’s absolutely gold – the strings that come in around the 3 minute mark are brilliant,

      it’s the melody that you look forward to again and again on repeat listens

      • Noble Rot   |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

        The close of the live version from Texas makes me think of “Lamb”or “Watcher” Genesis and the studio versio closes like “Mona Bone Jakon”…heres a rubber ball perhaps you’d like to bounce it!…

  26. great record, ive never been so floored on the first couple listens… fantastic

  27. jay  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    Just wondering, which girl sings on “Knotty Pines” off of Dark was the Night?

  28. don't be an arse  |   Posted on Apr 14th, 2009 0

    Dear “ummm”,

    Wow. You are SOOO right. What were we thinking? It is with great enthusiasm that we would like to invite you on board to write all of our record reviews from now on. Frankly, we’re embarrassed we didn’t ask you sooner. Please think about it. We have already seen to it that this, indeed, “dreadful” writer be terminated.

    We are optimistic that, under your wing, our humble operation can finally flourish into the credible source of music journalism we have always dreamed it would become.

    Sorry again for that review!

    – Stereogum

  29. fandango  |   Posted on Apr 15th, 2009 0

    so does anyone know what does the cover art mean? I’ve seen that blue/red thing in slaves graves and ballads, and there’s another one on their myspace with dave longstreth against nietzsche…. is it some kind of exchange of… something?

    I’m curious about that since 2004, but never actually asked.

  30. Its really awesome Dirty Projectors are getting this much attention. Im still in the thick of this record but so far its everything i could’ve hoped for.

  31. kent  |   Posted on Apr 15th, 2009 0

    This album was a near religious experience for me. One of the best albums I’ve heard in my adult life. It’s one of those records that brings me hope that there are still people out there really pushing themselves to make something totally new, challenging and still completely appealing. regardless of fashion or hype or the rest of it. Just fucking fantastic.

  32. Yeah, this album is the supreme shit. Listened for the first time this mroning and I’m already on my third time through. Extremely listenable yet deep and complex at the same time. Wow.

  33. Fantastic record and a great review too… I’m really excited that 2009 is blowing my mind and it’s only April.

  34. ezra koenig  |   Posted on Apr 15th, 2009 0

    Dirty Projectors deliver.

  35. oceanRain  |   Posted on Apr 15th, 2009 0

    DP have always been hit and mostly miss for me (except for bass player: I’ve always kinda had a crush on her)…but from the opening chords on this one I felt it was gonna be really good. And it is.

  36. jkerianjmorgan  |   Posted on Apr 15th, 2009 0

    BITTE ORCA ORCA BITTE !!

  37. tunafish  |   Posted on Apr 16th, 2009 0

    i cant wait to buy this as soon as its available, but in the meantime can someone please explain why i cant find the torrent that everyone’s talking about? its not on mediafire anymore

  38. buttdick  |   Posted on Apr 16th, 2009 0

    i hate that such great things leak so early cuz by the time they actually come out they are already old news

  39. this album is more prime than prime rib

  40. OH SNAP  |   Posted on Apr 16th, 2009 0

    This is all over the place … vintage (2002) DP compositional concerns combining with New Attitude guitar riffs and Getty Address and Rise Above vocalizing … wonderful! And “Two Doves” sounds like the Nico song ‘These Days,’ and then they sing a line from that song? What?! I will move into your house, Dave Longstreth, and babysit your future children if you want.

  41. Cale  |   Posted on Apr 16th, 2009 0

    HUGE let down.. Rise above was my second favorite record of 07… But this one drags…. just not very good…. But two doves is the best 1000 unbrellas cover I’ve ever heard!! With that said.. Lotus Plaza is the best supirise of the year.. So Im not that bummed!!

    • Joey Joe Joe  |   Posted on Apr 17th, 2009 0

      I don’t quite agree, but I’m glad to see someone referencing XTC – early work is a definite DP’s influence. Love the album

  42. Niki  |   Posted on May 19th, 2009 0

    oh god, this is killing me.
    Where can I find a torrent?
    Someone please have mercy.

  43. oh god. this is the band that butchered “Rise Above” like a bunch of assholes. ugh. Even IF this album is good, i’ll indefinetly pass.

    http://rdfrnds.blogspot.com/

  44. Kat  |   Posted on Jun 6th, 2009 0

    I love this album! I saw DP live on Thursday opening for TV on the Radio in Boston. It was my first time hearig them, and I was amazed! They’re orgasmic! The vocals, the drums, the guitar riffs, it all flowed perfectly. The music stole my soul, and having it surround me…well…it was breathtaking.

  45. shope  |   Posted on Jun 12th, 2009 0

    luls

  46. Interesting review, but I would take issue with the fact you need knowledge of the Projector’s history to take pleasure from the record. Also see what you think of this, a review from a UK perspective

    http://www.whatisthegrain.com/2009/06/say-goodbye-to-post-britpop-pastiche-hello-to-dirty-projectors-bitte-orca/

  47. Trevor  |   Posted on Jul 29th, 2009 0

    I want to have Angel’s Baby!!!

  48. sick burn.

    stereogum > ummm

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