I'll get this out right away: Dirty Projectors mastermind Dave Longstreth composed Rise Above as a 'reimagining' of Black Flag's 1981 album Damaged. He'd come across the empty cassette case when he was clearing out items from his parents' home. Unfamiliarity with Damaged will not hamper the listening experience though. It does help convey the bizarre inner conceptual workings of Longstreth's brain.
Rise Above, Longstreth's third full-length release under the guise of Dirty Projectors, is a paradoxical collage of otherworldly sounds equal parts West African dance music, 1970s Art Rock, and 1980s pop ala David Byrne, all crafted using the typical rock quartet formation.
Experimental in the vein of Deerhoof, this music is much easier on the ears. Like Grizzly Bear's Yellow House (GB's Edward Drost engineered the album), Rise Above conveys a penchant for both psychedelic folk rock and ethnomusicology. Shifts in time signatures happen as often as genre morphing. Yet it all holds together thanks to Longstreth's quivery broad-ranged wail accompanied by tightly constructed vocal harmonies.
The album all seems to come together right in the middle with "Thirsty and Miserable," the longest track on the release at just under six minutes. A deceivingly mellow guitar-and-drums driven melody is soon joined by signature chorus of cherubic cooing. There's some ebb and flow in the first few minutes mostly driven by the dynamics of Longstreth's voice followed by a slight percussive explosion and distorted guitar. Slowly building, the shift is completed right after the three minute mark, when sonic distortion and cacophony suddenly take over, only to ebb back to the song's mellow beginnings until finally shifting back to mayem for the final few measures. This makes way for "Police Story," which opens with jazzy horns and flute punctuated suddenly by jangly folk pop strumming.
Well, you get the picture, and it's a glorious one because all these seemingly disjunctive sounds meld seamlessly thanks to Longstreth's painstaking attention to detail and uncanny ability to unify such disparate influences. With Rise Above, Dirty Projectors have effectively expanded the boundaries of rock music to create an album at once danceable, listenable, and totally transporting.