Dirty Projectors - About To Die [EP]
The fabled extended play is a difficult specimen. While most bands shy away from the format, greats such as the Pixies, My Bloody Valentine and Radiohead have turned it into an artform. When executed correctly it can feel as though a band have crafted perfection in miniature. More often than not, however, the EP becomes a repository for whatever's been abandoned to the cutting room floor or outsourced for a pseudo-dubstep reimagining.
In fairness to Dirty Projectors, the About To Die EP is a fairly solid effort. There are five brand new songs here after all. For diehard fans of the band this will be a particularly welcome addition, providing a canvas for five experiments on the tried and tested Dirty Projectors modus operandi.
First up is the expansively complex indie pop of the title track, a standout plucked from this year's excellent Swing Lo Magellan. It's stuttering yet catchy, darkly humorous but beautifully uplifting as its rays of sugared sunshine flood in courtesy of Dave Longstreth and Amber Coffman's vocal interplay, lending this tragicomedy an irresistible duet quality.
But its the first new track, 'While You're Here', which is the most interesting on About To Die. Leaving Longstreth to battle it out against a lone string section, its pared down approach is a brave move for a band who have come to rely upon sheer ostentatiousness in their arrangements. It should also be pointed out that it's actually a lot more earnest than anything you've likely heard from Dirty Projectors. Indeed, I've always felt that the group tend to use their idiosyncrasies as a crutch and their decision to dispense with absurdity turns out to be inspired in this case, the rawness of the track carrying it through.
'Here Til It Says I'm Not' is a decent love song, while 'Simple Request' sees the group indulge their quirks a little too much. Its uneasy marriage of off-pitch guitars, cacophonous vocals and stuttering percussion lacks the charm of a Beck or a Pavement and it falls frustratingly short of the promise its initial harmonies hint at. 'Buckle Up' is a vigorous garage rock workout that recalls Ty Segall or Milkman-era Deerhoof. However, while its one minute and 47 seconds provides the pithiest statement on About To Die, its lack of imagination and reliance on a repetitive loud-quiet motif means that it becomes boring quickly. Closer, 'Desire To Love', provides a welcome counterpoint, with its gleaming classic 60s folk guitars and warm bass fuzz. The sparse production means that it's always destined to sound like a demo but its heartfelt affection does perhaps sound a signal as to what we're likely to hear next from Dirty Projectors. And that's what makes this release interesting: if they can turn these experiments into substance, the future looks extremely bright for Longstreth et al.