On first seeing the Dirty Projectors live my response revolved around two not-so-mutually-exclusive-as-they-might-seem thoughts: “Wow” and “What the fuck?” Honestly, the latter I fully expected (and craved), the former I hoped wouldn’t solely stem from the latter. Which, in the end, it did not. What I really wasn’t quite prepared for—what swept me off my feet—was the sheer beauty of Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian’s harmony vocals, the way they would rise suddenly, materialize, swallow the mild chaos that preceded them, making my sense of time dilate, projecting the world into a swooning slow motion. That said, it seems particularly appropriate that the first solo record by Deradoorian—comprising Angel and friends (Projectors bandmates Dave Longstreth and Brian McComber included)—should be titled Mind Raft. Music as a vehicle for the voyages of immobile bodies. Dig.
So, Angel Deradoorian is originally from (somewhere near) Sacramento and I suspect that she has previously transcended (and possibly continues to transcend) space and time to see that “last psychedelic band from Sac’to, Northern Cal” that Malkmus goes on about in “Unfair.” (Raised in Sacramento myself, I too have done such transcending on occasion and thoroughly recommend it, though I seriously doubt that it will allow you to become as musically mercurial as Ms. Deradoorian.) This just to say, Mind Raft is most certainly an album of psychedelic material, in the most adventurous and least cliché ways possible: strange journey, rather than strange tie-dye; hypnotic repetitions interrupted by the weight of an equally hypnotic voice, harmonizing with itself. But there are such different elements comprising these five songs, it seems wrong to shuffle them under any single umbrella, however broad.
Opener “Weed Jam” is a simple beat, a simple bass groove and wordless, mesmeric harmonies. An effective point of entry to what comes. “High Road” is, well, a high point, one of the songs I have found myself leaning on as I slog through winter toward what passes for spring in Scotland. Strangely, perhaps, it sounds something like Chromatics stripped of all glitz, riding on a slightly trippy little keyboard arpeggio and meandering pleasurably on until the rainmaking hook of the chorus drops in. Even better is when the chorus drops out the final time, leaving behind a wash of voices eerily levitating in emptied space. “You Carry the Deed” blends minimal, folky instrumentation and R&B diva indebted vocals, a sublime asymmetry of pensiveness and force. Again, a song that shows her willingness to experiment with sounds that you don’t usually hear conjoined. And, again, the result is fantastic.
The last two cuts are “Holding Pattern,” a guitar-heavy dirge that proclaims a divine and dynamic stasis, and the altogether different “Moon.” This latter song starts off sounding like one of Mazzy Star’s more skewed, moonless lullabies before it hits the point where Angel Deradoorian, sounding somewhat possessed, begins to intone the words “In his name” and then lays into an inspired bout of Middle-Eastern, multi-tracked wailing. It closes by locking into a slow, chunky groove for three minutes before careening into a yawning abyss of drone. As this review cannot end with such a drone, it ends by affirming that the Mind Raft is a serious mode of cerebral and musical transport: blazing trails, unfolding dimensions, bending bones.
Mazzy star – So Tonight That I Might See
Dirty projectors – The Glad Fact
Animal collective – Sung Tongs