Angel Deradoorian, Amber Coffman and Haley Dekle must be angels. There is no other way to describe their other-worldly harmonies. Their voices are Coco Rosie-esque at times, a moving and lilting choral pop display. Instead of traditional dueting harmonies, the three ladies voices are orchestrated into something resembling more of an instrument, and less three individual voices. David Longstreth made a very wise decision in adding them to the Dirty Projectors family. When I saw DP in ’06 sometime at a super small club in Texas, it was just him and a guitar and a disturbingly enthralling video that was projected (heheh) onto a wall behind the stage. The performance bordered on the avant-garde, but I’m happy to say that seeing them in ’09 was a completely different experience.
Little Wings, the project of Kyle Field, was the sole opening act for Dirty Projectors. Breezy and pastoral, akin to his seaside hometown of San Luis Obispo , Field’s music as Little Wings is sprawling. Little Wings is basically a man and his guitar, crooning warm and breezy alt-country with a pinch of cheer. His songs took on more of a narrative style, often prophetic, reminiscent of old country standards. His performance was engaging and possibly poignant, but the loud crowd chatter that swelled during the middle of his set made it difficult to fully absorb what you were hearing.
Dirty Projectors finally came onstage to a sweating mass of people in the crowd, uncomfortably jammed up against each other. David Longstreth’s voice is piercingly beautiful and surprisingly odd at the same time. After listening to their newest record, Bitte Orca , I was certain that the sounds I heard couldn’t be produced live, assuming that the overall aesthetic was very much a product of in-studio knob twiddling. Live, however, they nailed it. The ladies let their voices fly to the very top of the ceiling, maxing out at an ungodly soprano range. Longstreth played his right-handed guitar left-handed, his hands both plucking wildly at the strings. His finesse on the guitar is unbelievable: lightning quick fingers racing along the strings, intricate rhythms perfectly played and an almost classical Spanish guitar technique.
It was obvious early on that this six-piece was a well-oiled machine. The punchy drumming collided with Longstreth’s angular guitar playing and the trio of femme’s ethereal vocals to form a purposefully disjointed and experimental, sound. Their rhythms are unpredictable and changed time signature multiple times during the length of any given song. From spare vocals over a simple bass line to a full-on onslaught of brash noise and off-kilter harmonies, they somehow sounded completely practiced, appropriate and complex. Every note was strong and confident, their eccentric sound giving them freedom to abandon traditional song structure.
They played an encore, of course (doesn’t EVERY show get an encore these days?) to the packed crowd uproariously calling for more. And I can’t blame them… I couldn’t get enough of their weirdness, their strangeness, their intense interlocking rhythms that get stuck in my head. The Dirty Projectors are truly an experimental band, but judging from the crowd last night, they can also be dance-worthy, tear-soaked and absolutely stunning.