This is how I describe the Dirty Projectors to people who've never heard them before: "Imagine if your hippie-jam-band younger brother (who grew up listening to Sinatra) got marooned on a desert island with nothing but Black Flag and music theory." It's a pretty apt description, because more than anything Dirty Projectors are a band's band -- they do shit that no other group would do (like re-imagine a Black Flag album in their last record) and, thus, are labeled as "influential" or "experimental" or "wacko" depending on what side you come down. And there is something fundamentally wacko about the Dirty Projectors. They don't follow traditional song structure. They juxtapose crazy crescendos with subtle electronica. They place gorgeous harmonies next to dissonance that will make your dog run out of the room. They use Afro-bop and chamber music. All this while simultaneously referencing Nietzsche and Gatorade. You have to be have a big musical vocab. to adequately describe what's going on. Dirty Projectors are to indie rock what Kool Keith is to hip-hop -- you have to know hip-hop to know how Kool Keith turns it on its head and you have to know indie rock to know how fucking inventive Dirty Projectors are.
The guy behind the group is Dave Longstreth (the aforementioned hippie-jam-band little brother). If you go back and listen to the group's discography, one of the things that will stand out in Bitte Orca is how Longstreth has cultivated a band. With music like this, the other players are as instrumental as the visionary behind them. Current members, Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, Brian Mcomber, Nat Baldwin, and Haley Dekle shine in this record. There isn't a spot of missed production, awkward musicality, or half-done change. Everything is spot on despite the demanding musicality and tonal shifts. Longstreth's perserverance has paid off in full, turning this record in to a sonic-scape that can rank right up there with other paradigm-shifting indie albums like The Soft Bulletin and Daydream Nation.
Of course, one of the difficult (or rewarding) parts of being a band's band is that despite being monumentally innovative, you still exist somewhere outside of the the mainstream indie scene. Unlike Grizzly Bear, whose harmonic musical twitchings, have been universally accepted, there's something more angular and alienating in the Dirty Projector's work. This necessarily limits their audience while cultivating and rewarding those who can break down the barrier and get into what's going on. That's a philosophical way to get at this -- you may not like the Dirty Projectors, but you should. It took me 3 years to get into Modest Mouse. I could respect what they were doing, but couldn't get down with what they were doing. I feel like I'm getting down with Bitte Orca, even though each listen reveals something new. There's something to said for patcience and shunning buzz and letting an album stand on it's own. It's like those colleges that don't give out grades. As Longstreth did, we have to perservere as listeners. It isn't always easy. Your girlfriend's going to tell you to turn down the racquet, but give her some time, and she'll come around too.