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coverpic flag US - New York - Full Moon 195 - 08/02/12

Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan
Domino Records

Swing Lo Magellan is David Longstreth & co's sixth album, and Dirty Projectors once more present their 'advanced easy listening' styled indie rock, with an album described holding '...both the handmade intimacy of a love letter and the widescreen grandeur of a blockbuster...'.

Dirty Projectors (DP) had their minor-major breakthrough with 2009's Bitte Orca. A year later they put out Mount Wittenberg Orca; an EP collaboration with Björk. Longstreth and his DP create 'different music'. They've been exploring 20th-century orchestration, 1980s hardcore music (Black Flag), western African guitar music, R&B, along with complex contrapuntal techniques in human voices. At first listen, Swing Lo Magellan strikes me as a more 'normal' sounding record. Yet, it's a ragbag of ideas - a cut'n'paste styled song-book. The label states that Longstreth spent 12 months of constant writing (he wrote seventy new songs and beats!) and recording in a weird house in Delaware County, NY. He was periodically joined by the band; Amber Coffman, Nat Baldwin, Brian McOmber and Haley Dekle (the list of present and past members is long), for rehearsing and recording. Probably to avoid a total cabin fever meltdown/blackout. Then, the album was finished with some additional musicians (adding strings and horns), and with David Longstreth of course being the superior arranger, producer and mixer. The head of everything.

Opener "Offspring Are Blank" is a deep dive into experimental progressive pop (rocking out, mind you) of the 1970s. The songs continue to scramble and ramble, sort of. Yet, there seems to be total control behind every move, every tune. The vocals and rhythms make a cool zigzag, which is a fascinating ride to stay on. If I'd mention only a few highlights, I'd say the shimmering "Gun Has No Trigger", "Just From Chevron", "Dance For You" (because of its neat guitar), "Impregnable Question" and "See What She Seeing" (like with "...Chevron", they've got nice co-vocals by Amber Coffman), and "The Socialites" (with Amber on lead vocals).

With Swing Lo Magellan DP can be filed along with fellow Brooklynians Grizzly Bear, or maybe also not too far away from Animal Collective. There's also a certain link to David Byrne's song writing. Byrne - the old king himself of US new wave rock - is a man DP has been compared to, and a man they've collaborated with on the Dark Was The Night compilation. In fact, quite a few of the artists (even Grizzly Bear were on it) from that very charity compilation are spiritually related to DP, such as; Andrew Bird, Arcade Fire, Beach House, Beirut, The Decemberists, Spoon, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, Postal Service), Sufjan Stevens, Yeasayer, Conor Oberst, Antony (without the Johnsons). Quite a long list. But, mind you, not a long enough list to describe the entire and wondrous world of Longstreth and his Projectors. From the old-school scene of 'new wave pop' is British group Squeeze another band namedropped when sketching the musical style of DP. One could easily add a toned down Andy Partridge & XTC as well. One might also add Ween meeting Jeff Mangum for a jam by the fireplace in the midst of a forest.

Swing Lo Magellan is a wild, yet beautiful flower this summer. "It's an album of songs, an album of song writing," says Longstreth. Imagine the fairytale of the ugly duckling.

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