Release Date: August 21, 2015
Anyone directly associated with art-rock monarchs Dirty Projectors can safely embark on a solo career with respectable name recognition (recall: prolific upright bassist Nat Baldwin, and, more recently, vocalist Amber Coffman‘s contribution to The Diary of a Teenage Girl soundtrack). Now, six long years after the release of her Mind Raft EP (and several Brandon Flowers duets) another Projector gets her chance to shine: Los Angeles bassist and singer Angel Deradoorian, also known as one-third of Avey Tare’s psych-pop project Slasher Flicks, who was the glass-shattering yelper on the DPs’ “Stillness Is the Move,” the breakthrough cut that inspired Solange Knowles to record an all-R&B cover.
Unsurprisingly, Deradoorian’s chemistry experiment of a debut full-length, The Expanding Flower Planet, grooves to a different rhythm than her earlier projects, which are varied enough to include a placement on Flying Lotus’ “Siren Song,” plus collaborations with Discovery, Matmos, the Roots, and more.
Where she once helped craft lighthearted hooks (“Little Fang”) and whimsical, engaging melodies (“Bitte Orca”) with her erstwhile music families, Deradoorian’s arrangements now feel less exploratory than rudderless, her harmonies more droning than direct. With all of its beeps, boops, rain sticks, maracas, organs, keyboards, bass, and drums (are you dizzy yet?), her proper debut’s need to demonstrate her versatility overshadows her ability to self-edit.
In preparation for her first solo odyssey, Deradoorian’s reportedly been listening to Krautrock innovators Can, along with Björk, Kate Bush, and Kid A-era Radiohead, and studying East Indian, Middle Eastern, traditional Japanese, and Native American culture. Thusly, each Flower Planet song unfolds with a seemingly limitless cacophony of sound: uneven syncopated thuds (“Violent Minded”), atonal vocal layers (“Komodo”), bone-chilling ahhhhhs (“Ouneya”), skittering electronic percussion, and, in its catchier moments, quickened bass licks (“The Eye”).
Equally upbeat is the thumping album opener “Beautiful Woman,” which builds atop Deradoorian’s Slasher Flicks work with tight, quickened beats, breathy vocals, and sheep-like “eh-eh-eh-eh-eh“s. Meanwhile, Dirty Projectors devotees will latch onto “Violet Minded,” which showcases the singer’s needle-sharp — almost abrasive — pitch.
Ultimately, though, this ten-track transcontinental journey is so in flux, you’d think Deradoorian spent the entire recording process living out of a travel backpack and sleeping in tents. That wouldn’t be a problem (Dora the Explorer pointed out a rucksack’s myriad uses best), except hers is feeling a little overstuffed.
The contents, despite prepping its owner for anything and everything (tropical showers, monsoon, dust storm, intergalactic war), exclude the vital element of fun. Sure, you can practically hear all the colors of the wind zooming through Deradoorian’s hair in the fast-paced lead single “The Eye,” but, as the record’s penultimate song, the only rush of real energy in an otherwise dreary, self-referential LP comes too late. Her audience will have already turned off their transmitters and settled in for the long nap.