Pity the Fleet Foxes fan who wanders into the dense jungle of Bitte Orca with the expectation of standard-issue, blogosphere-approved indie rock. For some listeners, could conjure memories of D.C. hardcore punks filing into a Shudder To Think show, only to be confronted with operatic glam-rock. Or a metalhead tuning into Headbanger's Ball and being treated to the foreign-sounding vocal contortions of System Of A Down. The herd mentality just won't do when it comes to Dirty Projectors, the Brooklyn outfit led by Dave Longstreth. Attempting to neatly file the band is a fool's errand; its bright, skittering African guitar riffs suggest Talking Heads or an avant take on Vampire Weekend's "Upper West Side Soweto," but Bitte Orca sounds more like a bohemian experiment from some imaginary borough.
There's the R&B bump of "Stillness Is The Move," on which guitarist Amber Coffman executes Mariah Carey trills over a pinging, snaking melody figure. The Longstreth-sung "Useful Chamber" dips and dives with Antony-like falsetto, its slowly pumping rhythm occasionally erupting into spasms of guitar-solo freakout. While each track seems to take perverse delight in its splatter of vocal surprises (Longstreth, Coffman and multi-instrumentalist Angel Deradoorian all contribute to a polyphony of African-style a cappella singing on "Remade Horizon"), it's often Longstreth's guitar that provides an anchor — even when that anchor is shaped like British folk fingerpicking, as on "Temecula Sunrise." On paper, Dirty Projectors can seem like a massive accumulation of known quantities — prog rock, freak folk, world music and psychedelia — but the new math of Bitte Orca never allows it to be the sum of these parts.