Marfa Dialogues

Dirty Projectors

Wye Oak

31 July 2012


Dirty Projectors
with Wye Oak
31 July 2012
Crowley Theater, Marfa, TX
Doors at 8 pm; show at 8:30 pm
A limited number of standing-room tickets ($10) available the day of the show.


In keeping with a long tradition of celebrating iconoclastic music, Ballroom Marfa welcomes Dirty Projectors to the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas on 31 July 2012.

Dirty Projectors is the project of Dave Longstreth and a revolving cast of collaborators. For the most recent album, Swing Low Magellan, Longstreth is joined by Amber Coffman (vocals & guitar), Nat Baldwin (bass), Brian Omber (drums) and Haley Dekle (vocals).

Longstreth has an established history of creating genre-hopping — or perhaps genre-defying — compositions. In a review of Dirty Projectors’ 2007 album Rise Above, Pitchfork calls the man a visionary “so full of bright ideas he can barely keep his shit together.”

This is a band that released the aforementioned LP — a re-imagining of the classic album from Los Angeles hardcore heroes Black Flag — yet also garners comparisons to such disparate artists as Phish, The Police, Animal Collective, Tim Buckley and Squeeze. And then, of course, there are the sonic allusions of West African pop, remixes for contemporary psychedelic drone outfit White Rainbow, and compositional references to contrapuntal Renaissance music. And then Longstreth himself likes to name-check James Joyce, Richard Wagner and John Coltrane.

Suffice it to say, Dirty Projectors are not easy to pin down, or as Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear put it regarding their lauded 2009 album, Bitte Orca, “it’s so distinctly Dirty Projectors that I didn’t even know how to begin to describe what genre it is.” The album was a breakthrough smash, landing on year-end charts from across the internet to mainstream outlets such as Time, leading to shows around the world and collaborations with The Roots and David Byrne.

The follow-up to Bitte Orca saw Dirty Projectors collaborating with Björk on Mount Wittenberg Orca, an EP inspired by guitarist Amber Coffman’s walk atop the titular peak at the Point Reyes National Seashore in Northern California. These songs are both about the whales that Coffman saw on her hike, as well as sung by Björk from the perspective of the whales themselves. The band went on to donate $60,000 generated from sales of the release to a National Geographic charity concerned with the preservation of ocean reefs.

The latest release for Longstreth and company, due out on July 10, is Swing Lo Magellan, a project he describes as being “an album of songs, an album of songwriting.” Here the Dirty Projectors seem to be shifting gears from the wondrous complexities of past efforts, going for a simple approach, a conspicuous foregrounding of the anthemic choruses, and tender sentiments that have always swirled behind the band’s mesmerizing arrangements.

A live rendition of these new works is certainly not to be missed.

Dirty Projectors will be joined by Baltimore’s Wye Oak, the duo of Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack. Wye Oak’s music sits on the same shelf as artists like Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth and Neil Young, all artists able to navigate between sparse emotional resonance and soaring choruses. Stack’s drums and keyboards lay the groundwork while Wasner switches her guitar between gentle strummed drones and sky-filling waves of shoegaze melody. Her voice is well-matched to her instrument, by turns soothing, sensually weary and martial. Their third full-length release, Civilian, was selected by the A.V. Club as the best album of 2011.

    Watch Dirty Projectors’s video “Stillness Is the Move,” from their 2009 record, Bitte Orca, courtesy of Golden Focker.

    Watch Wye Oak playing “Civilian,” from their 2010 record, Civilian, courtesy of Hauskonzerte.com.

    Special thanks to Daniella Ben-Bassat, The Big Bend Sentinel, Dan Chamberlin, Rob Crowley, Tim Crowley and Jennifer Bell of the Crowley Theater, Mark Glover, Jeremy Guevara, Jonathon Lujan, Chris Hillen, Marfa Public Radio, Marfa Recording Company and Dominic Villano.