Dirty Projectors – Lamp Lit Prose
The first thing you’ll notice about Dirty Projectors’ new record Lamp Lit Prose is how much more jovial it sounds than last year’s self-titled effort. It’s no accident; Dave Longstreth says his intentions were clear from the outset.
“I thought it would be cool to outline a spectrum of feelings,” he told Double J’s Zan Rowe. “The self-titled record has a lot of minor keys and this one is a lot more major key, way more celebratory and jubilant.”
It felt like this album wanted to be more of a community. It felt like it should be more chaotic, it should be people singing on top of each other.Dave Longstreth — Double J, 2018
While there was a deep and often uncomfortable catharsis on last year’s album, this latest effort feels far warmer and more open. But, with Lamp Lit Prose, Longstreth didn’t feel as if he had to reinvent the way in which he worked.
“Making the self-titled record, I definitely wanted to throw away everything that I thought I knew about what Dirty Projectors was, and how I make a recording,” he said.
“Maybe it's because I didn't go on tour and I didn't have that kind of existential spasm that happens after you go on tour for a year and a half and you're like, 'This is all bankrupt, everything I'm doing. I need to start from scratch'. I didn't have that. I was just free to dream. I just kept on making songs.
“There's a little bit less angst on this one, in terms of pushing myself out of what I know. It was a happy time making this record.”
Another striking difference between Lamp Lit Prose and Dirty Projectors is the use of guest artists on the latest record. Last year’s was very much an insular affair, with Longstreth opening up his wounds through his work all alone.
This time around, it was time to bring in some new personnel.
“I had a rough version of the album where I had me singing everything,” he explained. “Listening back to it, it felt like this album wanted to be more of a community. It felt like it should be a conversation. It felt like it should be more chaotic, it should be people singing on top of each other.”
The album opens with ‘Right Now’, a song that comes from a pretty unexpected source of inspiration.
“I was thinking about that Avicii song with Aloe Blacc, where its this sort of unholy alliance of country music and festival EDM; it's a surprising combination,” Longstreth said.
“I wanted to do something similar with 'Right Now'; combining a very comfortable place for me – which is acoustic guitar folk music – with this electronic beat that Tyondai Braxton and I made. Could we make these things live in the same world? That's the question with 'Right Now'.”
Longstreth has a veritable supergroup on his hands on ‘You’re The One’, with a couple of very familiar voices harmonising with him through the track.
“This is just a simple, beautiful song. An ode to a special person. My friends Robin, from Fleet Foxes, and Rostam (ex-Vampire Weekend), were kind enough to sing this song with me.”
But perhaps the most impressive guest appearance comes courtesy of a Japanese insect in ‘I Feel Energy’. That in itself is kinda strange, but it’s where the sound came from that makes it even wilder.
“In the bridge of this song, the tempo falls off a cliff. But, to save us, is the sound of a Higurashi cricket, recorded on an iPhone in Japan, by my friend Björk and sent to me, just because it was such a crazy sound.
“The cricket has this crazy rhythm that happened to be in the BPM of this bridge. It was a really nice crescendo that layers with this trio of trombones that plays this weird chord.”
The song features a great guest vocal from Double J favourite Amber Mark, as well as a sample that some Dirty Projectors fans might find quite familiar.
“I was mixing 'Up in Hudson' from the self-titled album with Jimmy Douglass,” Longstreth says. “He soloed out this one little moment of bottle percussion, bottles that were filled with water to varying amounts so they have different pitches.
“He was like, 'Man, that groove is so killer. Someone's gonna sample that.' So I sampled it!
“I took that moment of bottle percussion and it became the rhythmic bed of I Feel Energy, with this crazy additive rhythm, 808 bass line, and, of course, Amber Mark crushing the refrain.”