Dirty Projectors "Dirty Projectors"
DIRTY PROJECTORS IS A RADICAL BREAK FOR DIRTY PROJECTORS
THE NEW SELF-TITLED ALBUM does everything we
want and expect from Dirty Projectors — but in a way
that we never could have imagined or anticipated. In
a career of surprising conceptual gambits, unexpected
stylistic shifts, and continually changing lineups — this
is, as DJ Khaled says, “ANOTHER ONE” !
A PROTEAN, SHAPE-SHIFTING CHAMELEON,
Dave Longstreth, the founding member and sole constant
Projector, goes where the music is: he builds his band
and arrangements around the songs he’s writing in that
Dirty Projectors is a BREAKUP ALBUM. These songs,
coming out of a place of heartbreak & depression, began
as private gestures of catharsis & healing. DL couldn’t
see any future for Dirty Projectors, much less imagine
these as Dirty Projectors songs, until he went to LA,
where Rick Rubin urged him that this is exactly what
The ABSENCE OF FEMALE VOICES — notably that of
the beloved Amber Coffman — becomes both the subject
of the album and the engine of its most inspired leaps:
allowing DL to branch out as a producer & arranger,
encouraging him to hone his songcraft, and forcing him
to focus on his own voice, to revelatory result.
Perhaps the greatest surprise is that Longstreth’s
VOICE — one of the most iconic & divisive in music today
— has gone from being a sometime-liability to his music’s
greatest and most expressive asset. The CHOPPING,
LAYERING, SPEEDING UP & SLOWING DOWN of the
voice is processing both literal and metaphoric: DL works
through the new absence on a course of self-examination,
interrogation, reflection. But his natural voice is the
great reveal: out of the black hole of loss comes a quantum
spark of CONFIDENCE & PURE FEELING.
From the baritone lament of Keep Your Name to the
crooning pathos of Little Bubble and the breathless falsetto
leaps of Winner Take Nothing, these songs establish
DL as one of music’s most VERSATILE, ORIGINAL
The album flexes DL’s tremendous GROWTH &
STRENGTH AS A PRODUCER. Classic Projectors
trademarks are here — guitar, hocketing, powerful
three-part vocal harmony — as a foundation for a
new world of insanely fresh drum patterns, Rhodes,
Wurlitzer, brass choir, string quartet, piano, modular
synth, Kontakt and Arturia patches, all tied together
in dizzying next-level arrangements. DL is at the top of
his game as one of 2017’s most original producers in any
DL himself remains agnostic about genre and ecumenical
in his inspiration. In some ways, the album answers the
question Dirty Projectors posed way back in 2009 — before
the waves of nu-r&b and Beyoncé quoting the Yeah
Yeah Yeahs — with STILLNESS IS THE MOVE: what
would a post-genre collision of r&b, indie rock and other
music sound like? From the SUBTWEET BOP of Keep
Your Name to the DIGITAL BENEDICTION that is I See
You, this is truly GENRELESS MUSIC that pushes at
and expands the edges of what we’re used to hearing.
DL cites Karl Ove Knausgård, Joni Mitchell, and Drake
as his most passionately explored writers of the last few
years, and there’s a new DEPTH & LYRICISM in this
suite of richly complex songs. Self-reflection and fantasy
helix together in DETAILED LAYERS OF STORY:
rife in ambiguity, raging with doubt and ambivalence,
labyrinthine in their self-contradiction. Considering this
range, the NARRATIVE UNITY of the album is astounding.
Dirty Projectors is known for concept albums —
from the collaboration with Björk, Mount Wittenberg
Orca (2010), to the glitch opera The Getty Address (2005),
to the Black-Flag-reimagined opus Rise Above (2007).
And now Dirty Projectors is the most TAUT, UNIFIED,
CONTINUOUS ARC of storytelling yet — beginning with
the anger and self-recrimination of Keep Your Name and
ending with the forgiveness and reconciliation of I See
DL has made a breakup album before: his first album,
the rare and out-of-print Graceful Fallen Mango, from
2001. Fifteen years later, Dirty Projectors is arriving
where you began and knowing the place for the first
time. The significance of it being a self-titled record is
clear: Dirty Projectors is both A HOMECOMING AND A
REDISCOVERY. Time is a spiral, and this is an astounding,
vivid, immersive piece of music — YOU JUST
GOTTA HEAR IT!
NO HIVE MIND : THE MUSICIANS OF DIRTY PROJECTORS
This isn’t that committee-written, 17-writers-on-a-song
type of record that we see a lot of right now. These songs
begin and end with DL alone in a room. Nonetheless he
loves collaboration, and Dirty Projectors sees Longstreth
reaching out to new people to help him achieve the sounds
in his head. Dirty Projectors’ first non-“band identity”
record in a minute finds DL working more deeply with a
wider range of collaborators/co-writers than any of the
previous three LPs:
.: SOLANGE :.
DL and Solange wrote Cool Your Heart together between
sessions for Solange’s opus A Seat At The Table.
.: DΔWN RICHARD :.
The peerless explorer of electronic music and r&b
renders Solange’s parts on Cool Your Heart with crisp
.: TYONDAI BRAXTON :.
Fellow traveler in the interstices of electronic, scored
music, and rock, the multi-instrumentalist and former
Battles frontman brought a composer’s interest in space
& texture. Braxton & Longstreth fed DL’s rhythms
through various modular boxes to reskin them with a
more variegated, imperfect finish, working from a conception
of the modular synthesizer as the ‘acoustic guitar’
of electronic and beat-based music: primary, tactile,
.: MAURO REFOSCO :.
DL worked with the Bahían percussion master, renowned
for his work with David Byrne, Atoms for Peace, and the
Red Hot Chili Peppers, to bring texture and IRL physicality
to rhythms he composed digitally. The result is
like a digital grid made physical.
.: ELON RUTBERG :.
Fast friends in the Kanye writer’s camp, DL and Elon —
one of Kanye’s poets and primary narrative designer —
collaborated on lyrics and co-directed the Keep Your
.: JIMMY DOUGLASS :.
The legendary Senator himself. Timbaland’s righthand
man and mixer, engineer of the classic Timberlake
records and so much more, Jimmy Douglass mixed Dirty
Projectors with DL. It is a widescreen, hi-fi experience:
an audiophile high-water mark not only for Dirty
Projectors oeuvre but for music in 2017.
.: MIKE JOHNSON :.
Dirty Projectors’ Swing Lo Magellan-era drummer
makes the assist on several tracks, including Death Spiral
and I See You.
.: RYAN BEPPEL :.
The electronic musician and composer — student of the
French spectralist master Tristan Murail — wrote Ascent
Through Clouds’ harrowing arrangement for eight layers
of string quartet.
.: DAVID GINYARD :.
The veteran bassist of Solange’s and Blood Orange’s touring
bands brought his five-string on Up In Hudson.
.: yMUSIC STRINGS :.
Superfans will note the string quartets DL premiered in
a one-off solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
in 2013 form the skeleton of some of these songs, here
performed with interpretive verve by NYC’s most brilliant
string players: violinists Rob Moose & Ben Russell,
violist Nadia Sirota, and cellist Clarice Jensen.
.: THE BRASS PLAYERS OF LOS ANGELES :.
DL drew from the burgeoning jazz community in his new
adopted hometown, enlisting trumpet polymath Todd
Simon, saxophone mystic Tracy Wannomae and trombone
wunderkind Juliane Gralle to perform his brass
SIMPLE TWIST OF FATE: THE INELUCTABLE PATH TO DIRTY PROJECTORS
The story begins backstage after Dirty Projectors’ headlining
show at Carnegie Hall on the Swing Lo Magellan
tour in 2013. Lifetime achievement, playing Carnegie
Hall — but for the lead Projector Dave Longstreth it felt
like pyrrhic victory & hollow anticlimax. His relationship
was falling apart. People find solace in music, but
now DL found only anxiety and sadness in performing.
He spiraled lower as touring dragged on through the next
months. When it finally ended, he couldn’t seem to write
anything new. “I was pretty torn up,” he says of that
time, “pretty effing depressed.”
Sliding into 2014 with a triple crown of heartbreak, writer’s
block and crisis of confidence, and with his band’s
apparent future dark, DL began to work for other musicians
as a utility player. In that capacity, he managed to
:: write the bridge — melody, harmony & words —
of the Rihanna/Kanye West/Paul McCartney hit
:: produce the rhythm section — beats, basslines &
chords — of five tracks from Solange’s opus A Seat At
The Table, including highlights Mad and FUBU
:: score the 70-piece orchestral arrangement for Time
As A Symptom, closing track of Joanna Newsom’s epic
:: produce Azel, the third LP of the inimitable Tuareg
guitar shredder Bombino
:: produce & co-write City Of No Reply, the debut
album of Dirty Projectors sometime-bandmate Amber
Working for others, Longstreth honed his craft, seeing
his strengths & myriad weaknesses from a series of different
perspectives. “I got to collaborate with all these
heroes of mine,” DL enthused recently, “and getting to
work together that way — just them telling me what they
wanted, me trying to make them happy with what I could
come up with — was fun and actually sorta therapeutic.
“Plus,” he joked, “I figured since Rih sang my melody
and Wayne went on a beat I made, I was ready to die.”
Nonetheless, on a visit with Rick Rubin — who DL had
begun to check in with when he was in LA — Longstreth
first considered the idea that Dirty Projectors might
live again. Playing some rough demos and odds & ends,
agonizing over his creative impasse, DL heard Rubin tell
him, basically, ‘keep your name.’
On a commuter train between NYC and Hudson, where
he was now living, DL pushed samples around in the Edit
window of ProTools, returning to a style of beatmaking
he had experimented with while making The Getty
Address in 2005. A fan of the paintings of Agnes Martin,
DL said something finally clicked: “Rhythm is a grid,
and a grid is a crutch when you need one. It’s meditative.
Making those patterns is a geometric feeling. With the
river to my left, and the drum pattern for Work Together
in front of me, I felt a flash of a new beginning.”
Down in Brooklyn, he shared a practice space wall
with an old friend from his earliest NYC days: Tyondai
Braxton, the celebrated multi-instrumentalist & composer,
was in the middle of his own reinvention. DL recalls:
“In Battles, Ty took the guitar-voice-loop-pedal thing to
a place that no one else did, and then just turned around
and quit, and taught himself how to orchestrate like
Ravel and Varése. And now he was in there ten hours a
day learning modular synths!” Braxton’s constant curiosity
and fearless evolution was fiercely inspiring to DL.
It wouldn’t be long before they were shoulder-to-shoulder
tweaking new sounds.
With an idea for a new iteration of Dirty Projectors —
which has been the vehicle for Longstreth’s music across
seven LPs and three EPs since 2002 — DL walked
around his one-room house outside Hudson, NY, freestyling
melodies and developing song ideas for hours and
sometimes days on end.
Slowly lyrics and rough contours coalesced. In 2015,
after spending months in LA on various projects, DL
took the decision to move there full-time. Exodus from
Brooklyn complete, he built a studio on LA’s East Side in
a former cabinet factory and named it Ivo Shandor, after
the insane architect from Ghostbusters. At Ivo Shandor,
the finished recordings of Dirty Projectors came together:
DL laid down his vocal parts, his Rhodes, Wurlitzer, piano,
Juno, soft synth and guitar parts too. Mike Johnson
and Mauro Refosco built on the beats he made in Hudson
and Brooklyn with Braxton.
In late 2016 — with the horns parts down and the last
touches of mixing complete — the most epic Dirty
Projectors album yet was finished. The ineluctable path
that began in heartbreak and despair had delivered DL
back to himself, back to Dirty Projectors, and back to the
Artist: Dirty Projectors
Album: Dirty Projectors
Label: Domino Rec.