What becomes of the brokenhearted? Well, in the case of David Longstreth, they make some changes. Since the last time Longstreth made a Dirty Projectors album (2012's Swing Lo Magellan), his long-term relationship with Amber Coffman, who sang and played guitar with the group, ended. In time-honored fashion, Longstreth has made a break-up album, but 2017's Dirty Projectors has a musical personality that's decidedly different than most of the group's work. While the mix of indie rock and world music flavors that defined much of Dirty Projectors' releases is still present here, this album is dominated by electronics, especially the aggressive use of Auto-Tuned and sampled vocals. The first moments of opening track "Keep Your Name" feature Longstreth's vocals bent into a deep and doomy variant on his usual bright, airy instrument, and while the harmonies that are one of his stylistic trademarks are on hand, in this case they sound like Longstreth is singing with a digital ghost of himself rather than other people. With the voices often chopped and twisted as they square against deep bass patches and vintage synth sounds, while organic strings and horns bubble in the background, Dirty Projectors abandons the organic tone Longstreth made so much of in the past, and trades it for a digital universe where nothing seems quite real, even when it's beautiful end engaging. The production is a superb match for the songs, which deal with the various aspects of a love affair that's flamed out, and Tyondai Braxton, of Battles, proves to be an excellent collaborator, helping Longstreth work out the melodies and make this album a fascinating, absorbing listen even at its most forbidding. The broken-hearted Longstreth sounds like a changed man in many respects, but he's no less talented and visionary than he was before, and Dirty Projectors demonstrates that musically and lyrically, love and its absence have taught him a thing or two.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming