Release Date: Aug 21, 2015
Record label: Anticon
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The first sound on Deradoorian's The Expanding Flower Planet is her voice, bubbling up out of quiet and bringing with it a whole vibrant world with it. It's a voice that should immediately excite fans of art-rock, not only for its unique beauty but also for its familiarity; it harks back to The Dirty Projectors' Bitte Orca, one of recent years' most creative and rewarding listens, and on which Angel Deradoorian played a starring role.
Angel Deradoorian rejects the “new age” tag. While a belief in and respect for supreme energies informs and sustains the unflinching individuality of her full-length debut, The Expanding Flower Plant, she’s just not into any sort of knee-jerk reductionist genre compartmentalization. To maneuver through her record you’ll need to free yourself from cowboy Americana and consumer pop standardization.
Angel Deradoorian’s debut album The Expanding Flower Planet, like Alice’s journey into Wonderland, is an exploration of consciousness and unconsciousness, the wider world and her inner psyche. It’s been a long journey for her to get to this point. Since leaving Dirty Projectors Deradoorian kept herself busy, releasing the introduction to her solo incarnation, 2009’s Mind Raft EP and guesting with Flying Lotus amongst others, while waiting for the vision she had for her own record to manifest.
It’s been worth the wait for this debut solo album from former Dirty Projector Angel Deradoorian, who left the US art-pop explorers in 2012. The droney, rambling buds of her 2009 EP Mind Raft blossom here into tauter grooves, drawing on Indian and Middle Eastern sounds, her Armenian heritage, the minimalism of Terry Riley and psychedelic pop. A Beautiful Woman grooves with compulsive tension, Your Creator is both a very strange kids’ TV show theme and the hymn of a new religion, while Komodo shifts between sea-shimmer delicacy and dragon-stomping intent.
Throughout Angel Deradoorian’s debut solo release, The Expanding Flower Planet, the only stylistic consistent is her mellifluous, gorgeously malleable voice. Like an even more avant garde, though ultimately less intentionally strident Merrill Garbus, Deradoorian’s songs are built largely around repetitious vocal samples augmented by polyrhythmic percussion, sparse electronics and prominently positioned bass. But rather than relying on vocal distortions bordering on the ugly, Deradoorian’s primary aim is crafting a thing of true beauty set it in an often alien setting.
Hailing from a musical family (her mother and father were jazz musicians), Angel Deradoorian played a key role in the Bitte Orca-era line-up of Dirty Projectors. She has subsequently played with Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks and has guested on tracks from The Roots and Flying Lotus, but her own solo work seems to have taken a back seat in the years since 2009’s enticing Mind Raft EP. For those in the know therefore, it has been a long wait for her debut album, but The Expanding Flower Planet more than amply repays patience and loyalty.
After leaving Dirty Projectors in 2012, Angel Deradoorian lent her hand to a number of projects, guesting on albums by the Roots, Flying Lotus and Brandon Flowers (while joining Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks group). Electing to collaborate with others before rushing in to record her first full-length helped Deradoorian widen her musical palette, one that's grown in flavour and scope since the release of her debut EP, Mind Raft. On The Expanding Flower Planet, Deradoorian melds atmospheric dance beats with world music melodies, crafting a sound reminiscent of early Sinéad O'Connor.
Angel Deradoorian's debut album is full of unusual juxtapositions: '60s psych and Georgian polyphony; classical minimalism and laser-show maximalism; dulcimer and church organ. But her voice is the thread that holds it all together, and once the album has finished, tied off with a ribbon of wailing trombone, it's her voice you remember most. Crystalline and unerring in pitch, it dominates the album, both solo and in multi-tracked close harmonies that radiate an eerie glow, like pyrite glinting through fog.
When a record is pushed as a 'cosmic ideal' by its PR team, you expect something different. And when that record has been produced by Angel Deradoorian, famed for her work as vocalist and bassline creator for New York progressives Dirty Projectors, there's a pretty good chance it will be. The Expanding Flower Planet doesn't disappoint. .
After proving herself to be a valuable utility player working with Dirty Projectors and Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks, among others, Angel Deradoorian has stepped out as a solo act with her first full-length solo album, and 2015's The Expanding Flower Planet gives a sense of how much she brought to other people's work as an accompanist. Recorded under the collective name Deradoorian, with Angel playing most of the instruments herself and her sister Arlene Deradoorian providing backing vocals, The Expanding Flower Planet delivers music that's at once languid and deeply rhythmic, with the subtle but insistent beats prodding these ethereal melodies downstream as the melodies and Deradoorian's splendid vocals (which sometimes resemble a more polished Judee Sill with a very different set of spiritual obsessions) recall a 21st century version of exotica, suggesting an unspoiled tropical paradise that somehow has banks of vintage synthesizers handy. Deradoorian and David Longstreth, her former boss in Dirty Projectors, clearly share a passion for vintage electronics and tuneful constructs that suggest other cultures while having a sound of their own, and it's not at all difficult to see how these two artists would feel sympatico, with each constructing different music founded on similar notions of how world music influences can be reshaped into contemporary indie pop.
In 1981, Italian artist Luigi Serafini published Codex Seraphinianus, a 360-page illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world. Over the course of 30 months, Serafini drew bizarre flowers, impossible anatomies, and metamorphic love alongside the book’s text, composed in an original alphabet that has yet to be deciphered. None of it makes sense. As you begin to leaf through its pages, you’re reminded of how remarkable it feels to observe without comprehension, to process shapes and images without associations, to get lost in a world that presents itself void of assumed meaning.
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.
Although Angel Deradoorian is certainly best known as bassist for Dirty Projectors, it is her voice which is her most powerful and distinctive characteristic. Indeed, one of the most recognisable aspects of Bitte Orca-period Dirty Projectors was Deradoorian’s versatile and bird-like trill soaring with ease. Since then she has worked with Flying Lotus and Charli XCX among other headline names.
With Angel Deradoorian, it’s not the exact words that matter, but rather the feeling conjured up by her voice when singing them. Time and again on The Expanding Flower Planet, Deradoorian’s first album as a solo artist, the lyrics seem to slowly shift into vowels and consonants, leaving clear language behind for something lying just beyond. It’s an ambitious record, and if it doesn’t always succeed, it’s not for lack of effort.