The alt. indie sextet show moments of greatness but are guilty of repetition
Dirty Projectors can be quite hard to get your head around. It’s not so much about the immediately apparent awkwardness of their sound, which blends abrupt changes of time signature and raw atonality with jangling guitars and the occasional surprise of warbling vocals that would sit more comfortably on an R’n’B hit. Rather it’s that, having contrived to produce a formula of such quirkiness, they repeat it so often, lessening the impact of its originality and even making it seem rather humdrum by the end of the show.
It’s a set mostly drawn from most recent album Swing Lo Magellan, and it certainly has its moments of genuine inventiveness, exhibiting a building-block approach to sound and songwriting that produces interesting results on songs like ‘The Socialites’ and ‘See What She Seeing’. Good sound is key to the live success of material like this, though, and at times there’s a sense here that, if you hadn’t heard any of these songs before, a melody would be hard to pick out amid the chaos.
Often, the band’s three female singers produce a kind of technicolour wooze ambience that soulfully and spookily underlays frontman David Longstreth’s up-and-down main vocal lines. But it’s a technique deployed too often, along with complex syncopated handclaps (‘don’t clap along,’ chastises Longstreth when a game audience member attempts to keep pace), making for a formula of predictable kookiness rather than the musical pioneering you sense they’re aiming for.