Mia Ferm

"Living in New York is like living in the internet," says David Longstreth, the Dirty Projectors' prodigious composer. "Everyone you know from every part of your life is there at one point or another." There is a strange, almost otherworldly significance in this statement that Longstreth almost certainly couldn't have intended, but it's chilling just the same.

When Bitte Orca leaked online, months ahead of its official June release date, everyone—bloggers, critics, and even the most casual listeners—became immediately attached. This group of downloaders (presumably) includes Björk and David Byrne. Longstreth would collaborate shortly thereafter with both: Byrne at Radio City Music Hall, followed by the creation of a vocal-and-guitar suite with Björk, which Longstreth composed in just 10 days for a one-off benefit performance.

"It was a tremendous honor to collaborate both with Björk and David," says Longstreth. "We all learned so much from being around those people who we really had admired artistically for years."

So indeed both the internet (for sharing and speed of dissemination) and New York (availability of networking) are components of Dirty Projectors' meteoric rise. Neither of these factors seem particularly strange, or out of place, per se. But perhaps adding Portland into the equation is.

"My brother went to college at Lewis and Clark. He's an older brother and I sort of followed him out to the West Coast a little bit," says Longstreth, who lived in Portland sporadically through the early oughts. "All of [my brother's] friends were in bands and part of the Portland K Records crew, and a lot of those people became my friends."

Through these networks Longstreth met Curtis Knapp, the owner of Marriage Records who would release one of Dirty Projectors' early albums, and whose roster influenced the budding Longstreth. "I feel like it's totally affected who I am and what kind of things I ended up making—people like Adrian Orange and Adam Forkner... really great people with really strong ideas." And when it came time to record a follow-up to 2007's Rise Above—a conceptual re-imagining of the Black Flag album Damaged that cracked critical circles—Portland became the destination.

"I wanted to get the fuck out of New York for a while," says Longstreth. "It was gonna be summertime and we all just really wanted a change of pace and a place that would be gorgeous—where we could hang out in the outdoors between bouts of recording." At that time, Knapp invited the band to his new studio. Longstreth remembers first seeing the room, "It was this big open space that seemed like a metaphor for possibility, practically." So, in turn, would become the great Northwest.

Beginning last June, Dirty Projectors were here, off and on, for six months, though they weren't always cooped up in the studio. "We went up to Mount Hood a couple times, went hiking there," says Longstreth. "We went out to the coast and Manzanita, went hiking there. We chilled on the beach. We definitely got out a whole bunch." And while most of the music was written before arriving in Portland, Longstreth says a lot of the lyrics came after.

The resulting record is much more airy, organic, and outdoorsy than one would ever equate with—or perhaps create in—New York City. Bitte Orca is an expanse of open skies whose colors flash and swirl from light blues to deep crimson. Lyrically, it's a peace-loving, easy-going, communal-living, vegetable-eating, near-zen love letter. But of course, its heart pumps with Longstreth's ecstatic, avant-garde compositions.

Bitte Orca is at once lush and deconstructed, gorgeous and strange, pensive and effervescent, off-kilter and almost paradoxically accessible. Longstreth incorporates all manner of wobbly vocal tweets, plucky African guitars, throbbing hiphop, even a string quartet. He also places more responsibility on the group's trio of female vocalists—Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle—who lead songs for the first time, beautifully serene even amid the most demanding technical arrangements.

The album's reception has nudged Dirty Projectors up into New York's top echelon of hip, young, genre-bending artists along with Animal Collective and TV on the Radio (each with major releases in the last year). As time passes it should be interesting to see how each record wears. Dirty Projectors seem exceedingly well positioned, as Longstreth's compositional dexterity and theoretical prowess appear boundless, both new and old at once. Of his generational colleagues, Longstreth might be the only one who is regularly, and earnestly, referred to as a "genius." To that end, however, there's a common misconception needing clarification: Longstreth did graduate from the Yale School of Music.

"There's this wide internet meme of me as this enigmatic dropout," laughs Longstreth. "I think there's a romance to that that people love to reproduce." But even after dispelling the myth, there's something confounding and radical taking place—and some of it happened here.

"It was gonna be summertime and we all just really wanted a change of pace and a place that would be gorgeous—where we could hang out in the outdoors between bouts of recording." At that same time, Knapp invited the band to his new studio. Longstreth remembers first seeing the room, "It was this big open space that seemed like a metaphor for possibility, practically." So, in turn, would become the great Northwest.

Beginning last June, Dirty Projectors were here, off and on, for six months, though they weren't always cooped up in the studio. "We went up to Mount Hood a couple times, went hiking there," says Longstreth. "We went out to the coast and Manzanita, went hiking there. We chilled on the beach. We definitely got out a whole bunch." And while most of the music was written before arriving in Portland, Longstreth says a lot of the lyrics came after.

The resulting record is much more airy, organic, and outdoorsy than one would ever equate with—or perhaps create in—New York City. Bitte Orca is an expanse of open skies whose colors flash and swirl from light blues to deep crimson. Lyrically, it's a peace-loving, easy-going, communal-living, vegetable-eating, near-zen love letter. But of course, its heart pumps with Longstreth's ecstatic, avant-garde compositions.

Bitte Orca is at once lush and deconstructed, gorgeous and strange, pensive and effervescent, off-kilter and almost paradoxically accessible. Longstreth incorporates all manners of wobbly vocal tweets, plucky African guitars, throbbing hiphop, even a string quartet. He also places more responsibility on the group's trio of female vocalists—Amber Coffman, Angel Deradoorian, and Haley Dekle—who lead songs for the first time, beautifully serene even amid the most demanding technical arrangements.

The album's reception has nudged Dirty Projectors up into New York's top echelon of hip, young, genre-bending artists along with Animal Collective and TV on the Radio (each with major releases in the last year). As time passes it should be interesting to see how each record wears. Dirty Projectors seem exceedingly well positioned, as Longstreth's compositional dexterity and theoretical prowess appear boundless, both new and old at once. Of his generational colleagues, Longstreth might be the only one who is regularly, and earnestly, referred to as a "genius." To that end, however, there's a common misconception needing clarification: Longstreth did graduate from Yale.

"There's this wide internet meme of me as this enigmatic dropout," laughs Longstreth. "I think there's a romance to that that people love to reproduce." But even after dispelling the myth, there's something confounding and radical taking place—and some of it happened here.