Published May 24, 2009Dave Longstreth assures me he is neither a Queen nor a Gastr Del Sol fan. And although there are elements of bombast and compositional complexity on his band's newest, and best, album, I am prepared to accept it. Still, the architect of Bitte Orca doesn't worry that a track like the operetta-ready "The Bride," whose guitar chorus suddenly triple-times out of its fourth bar, sits next to an existential slow jam like "Stillness is the Move," featuring Amber Coffman's siren vocals. She and bassist Angel Deradoorian lend melodic heft to many of Longstreth's lyrical leaps throughout. Perhaps a more agreeable NYC touchstone is the recently rediscovered Arthur Russell. Like Russell, the Projectors cross boundaries between art, dance and deceptively sweet pop without sacrificing credibility. Over the brief course of "Remade Horizon," for instance, they manage to wedge tropically mutated Gershwin-isms next to subtle electronics and toss in a twin guitar solo and still come up smiling. The production by Nicolas Vernhes (of the Rare Book Room in NYC) sharpens every facet to hyper-reflectivity, letting the electronics mirror the strings and every detail shine. It's a complex album to hook people who might usually hate complicated things.
You just worked with David Byrne, who represents for some a time in the late '70s when the gap between pop and experimental music was much narrower. Do you feel like that's coming around again today?
Longstreth: Whereas during that period there was still discernibly high art and popular art I think what's happening now is even more thrilling in a way because it's just like there's "stuff" and "stuff." It's not really one or the other; it's a little bit harder to define.
Your musical background is a little deeper than the average pop musician's. Are you wary of becoming disconnected from mainstream culture the way, say, the NYC downtown scene can be?
I've always had a certain amount of scepticism for someone like John Zorn, who seems to believe there's a decision he has to make between being a pure artist and communicating in a broader way. But I always feel like that's an imaginary line in the sand. It's to the credit of someone like Björk, who can do exactly what she wants to do and get as abstract or sophisticated as she wants, and have that be as direct, expressive and appealing as anything else. (Domino)