Dirty Projectors' mastermind David Longstreth appears to be attracted to sounds that will simultaneously draw in and confound the average listener; he has a clear, sweet voice and a gift for well-crafted harmonies and melodies that bring out the innate beauty of his music, but he often weds them to fractured time signatures that cause the songs to shift gear at the least expected moments, and he tosses in sudden bursts of atonal skronk that are either bracing or puzzling, depending on your point of view. 2009's Bitte Orca certainly follows in this tradition, and there's enough aural shapeshifting on this set to keep anyone guessing on first listen. Despite that, in many respects, Bitte Orca is one of Dirty Projectors' most accessible efforts to date; the slinky "Stillness Is the Move" could almost pass for mainstream R&B with its potent groove, lush harmonies by Amber Coffman and Angel Deradoorian, and elegant string coda, though with Longstreth's wiry juju guitar leads floating over the top, this ain't quite Beyoncé, and the placid semi-folkie grace of "Two Doves" (which bears a certain melodic resemblance to a-ha's MTV-driven hit "Take on Me") is truly lovely even when the dramatic dynamics of the string section seem intent on calling attention to some darker undercurrents. On the other side of the coin, there's "Useful Chamber," which combines bent vocal samples, wheezing synthesizers, steadily chugging beatboxes, and sudden blasts of overdriven electric guitar to form a pocket concerto of beauty and noise, and "The Bride," where Longstreth's guitar hops back and forth between polite acoustic strum, bluesy slide work, and shards of noise while the rhythm section ties to keep up and the vocals drift past the foreground like a cloud. Bitte Orca's nine tracks all seem to be bursting with ideas that they can barely contain, but despite the sometimes fractured synapses of this music, the songs are at once surefooted and agile, and "Remade Horizon" and "No Intention" are joyous and funky in their own curious way, and you can dance to them if you're in the right frame of mind. David Longstreth isn't quite trying to make things easy for his listeners on Bitte Orca, but there's far too much pleasure in this music for its eccentricities to put off anyone who is open to its gleeful, eclectic, internationalist heart.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming