Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

by Steve Reynolds Rating:8.5 Release Date:2012-07-09

Dirty Projectors gained prominence and a wider audience when they released the quirkily beautiful Bitte Orca in 2009. It'll raise a few eyebrows that their newie Swing Lo Magellan is their 11th album in a career spanning less than a decade, albeit some of these have been collaborations (Bjork), mini EPs and, bizarrely, an interpretation of the nihilistic hardcore Black Flag album Damaged.

Bitter Orca was out on its own when it was released and its avant garde use of instruments, falsetto melodies and unkempt rhythms catapulted its value into the arms of the enraptured indie music press. However, it was so well received that it's subsequently taken them three-plus years to release Swing Lo Magellan, and its fair to say that this hiatus hasn't curtailed their ambitions and musical creativity but rather pushed them into a new direction.

David Longstreth continues to be the band's figurehead and holds all the cards vocally by stamping his authority on new single and album opener 'Offspring is Blank' while the soothingly haunting backing vocal of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian lace the song together quietly at first before some rather smashing loud guitars make for a beautiful finale.

Some of the song titles border on the mournful ('About to Die' and 'Gun Has No Trigger') but the cornershop, shuffing beats and Longstreth's vocal on the former mixes perfectly with a clever use of handclaps and sharp stabbing snare kicks. The latter is lyrically much darker ("But now the gate comes down, the pangs are growing dimmer, you hold a gun to your head, but the gun has no trigger" - EEK!) but still remains bright in arrangement

While Bitte Orca was a demonstration in using a raft of instruments fit for an assault into world music territory, Swing Lo Magellan is much more stripped-back and minimalistic. Take for example the mellifluous, acoustic finger-picking of the title track and the thread-bare musically of 'Just From Chevron'. However, the backing sounds of Coffman and Deradoorian take centre stage on this album and push Dirty Projectors into unfamiliar but welcome territory.

The songs are not as elongated as Bitte but are summed-up perfectly by the introspective lyrics on 'Impregnable Question' where the wrought-iron, electronic beats and plaintive cello combine simply but seamlessly. 'Unto Caesar' is a simple, loose jamming track and the banter between the vocalists reminds of the much underrated Avi Buffalo and the early days of The Shins.

Swing Lo Magellan could have been a very difficult album with their crowd baying for another slice of Bitte but when a band possess this much musical nous they can do anything, cant they?

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