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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

November 5, 2009 at 12:53 PM

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Concert review: Dirty Projectors at Neumo's 11/04/09 (UPDATE: videos added)

Posted by Andrew Matson

A special hush fell whenever Amber Coffman, Angel Deeradorean, and Haley Dekle sang at Neumo's Wendesday night. They're the best of Dirty Projectors' weapons.

Audience wonderment was a major theme of the evening. It indicated the era we're in, where pop music is sophisticating itself, where bands practice hard and aim high, musically and technically. Such is the mind-blowing tradition of Dirty Projectors.

During "Remade Horizon," a stand-out from the Brooklyn band's album that might be the best in all pop music for 2009, "Bitte Orca," the female singing teamwork sounded just like a sequenced loop from a synthesizer. It was a recurring trick, but never felt cheap. The audience cheered for it every time.

The sirens projected cleanly all night and benefited from tasteful arrangements, but besides being tasteful those arrangements were super complicated and required great feats of voice-rhythm.

Head songwriter David Longstreth was wondrous, too, captivating in his starring role for the evening and perhaps his whole career as David Byrne. Moved like him, sang and played like him (conceptually, anyways), got physically animated while performing his awesome, ensemble-cast, polyrhythmic, African-American guitar/voice musical theater like him. He kept walking his lanky frame around the stage, bobbing his head like an ostrich. His Byrne-ish white Stratocaster pealed out riff after quick-fingered, octave-pedaled, bright-sounding riff, each a little lightning strike.

His flurries were seconded and thirded by Coffman on guitar, Deradoorean on keys, Nat Baldwin on bass, and Brian Mcomber on drums. They all peppered their playing with flashes of descending rhythm, a motif in many Dirty Projectors songs, and often played the riffs simultaneously or immediately following another. The music was more democratic than it sounds on record.

For "Stillness is the Move," the group's big hit and 2009's hands-down best R&B song, the memorable, wordless hook—a slowed-down version of the flurry-figure—was half sung by Deradoorean, half by Coffman, back to back. Sounded like one singer. On "No Intention," the guitar hook was played by Longstreth and Coffman at the same time. Sounded like one guitar with a cool effects pedal.

Another note on "Stillness": Coffman sang with no fear of being really loud. Mouth wide open, on one note, she flirted with a scream. It's hard to explain why it was so great, but it was.

Throughout the evening, Dirty Projectors' music was a big deal. A few weeks ago, fellow Brooklyn band Grizzly Bear was similarly super-practiced and compositionally ambitious at The Moore, and performed a similarly impressive set.

Dirty Projectors took it to another level at Neumo's. It was almost too much, the ideas were too good, too many, too integrated. It wasn't one person with some cool moves and a few followers, it was six people outdoing each other all the time. Beauty was all around, but precision impressed most.

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