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Dirty Projectors - The Glad Fact

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Artist: Dirty Projectors

Album: The Glad Fact

Label: Western Vinyl

Review date: Dec. 15, 2003

The first two minutes of The Dirty Projectors’ The Glad Fact consists of weird keyboards and distorted drums, threatening to veer off into mundane, noisy IDM. Then, out of the harsh mechanical sound enters The Dirty Projectors’ secret weapon: Dave Longstreth’s voice. Longstreth (technically the only member of the Dirty Projectors) eschews the hushed, whispery singing that bands like the Folk Implosion have made synonymous with lo-fi folk experiments. Instead, he belts out his songs, soaring to a powerful falsetto and ornamenting his melodies with dips and slides like a jazz singer. His range and semi-operatic tendencies immediately recall Jeff Buckley, but he also incorporates the atonal screechings of hardcore and the suave inflections of Chet Baker. It’s jarring to hear such a strong and dramatic voice step out from behind the blanket of hiss, but this odd marriage of confident crooning and bedroom production is an alluring concoction.

Not only does The Glad Fact sound like it was recorded in someone’s house with minimal equipment, but it’s full of misplayed notes and out-of-tune instruments. This can often draw attention away from the music, but in The Dirty Projectors' case it strangely buoys his songs. When a voice like Longstreth’s psychotically chants about graves and dark hallways, wrong notes only add to the music’s mystique. This shouldn’t be confused with “outsider music” of the Jandek variety; Longstreth appears to have some classical composition experience and his melodies are surprisingly sophisticated. “My Offwhite Flag” is both a beautifully melodic lament and a sound collage experiment. Longstreth’s jerky guitar-playing melds with pneumatic drums, hazy clouds of keyboards and what sounds like a sewing machine in an empty bathroom. “Like Fake Blood in Crisp October” is just stark guitar and vocals, a cross between Debussy and a medieval folk tune.

Jazz crooning, reverbed-out ’50s love ballads and classical music are definitely influential here, but The Dirty Projectors avoid any semblance of the derivative. Longstreth is doing his own thing and it’s hard to classify. To call The Glad Fact a lo-fi indie-rock album would demean the odd grandeur of the music. When Longstreth sings “We drank a two-liter of Orange Crush” on “Two Brown Finches”, he does so without the humor or irony you might expect from a 20 year-old; the result sounds like an ancient death incantation.

This is scary, evocative music, like an Alan Lomax field recording of a dusty, punk troubadour from the imaginary past; Kid A covered under 80 years of dust and gloom, only exchange the robots and clones for forests and abandoned farmhouses. On The Glad Fact, Dave Longstreth is making his own fucked-up version of American music.

By Ezra Koenig

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