pitchfork has an interview up of the dirty projectors guy, and even though he's talkiing about the fact that he's more of a band than a one-man act, even as we see pictures of the newly formed group being a group, the interview is with the guy and the guy alone, who says an awful lot of shit. wow, what a lot of thoughts he has. must be sharp.
anyway, what i want to focus on is the african influence section of the interview. check:
Pitchfork: You've been influenced by musical styles from Africa, and I wondered if you could speak to what you've listened to and the avenues you took to find it.
DL: To me it started with being into just sort of like, Motown shit, and into some of the earlier James Brown shit. And then there's that Brian Eno essay about the return of these Americanized African music to Africa, in music like Fela Kuti. I guess that's where I began, and I quickly ran through a whole bunch of those Nonesuch and the Okura discs, more like ethnomusicological folk musics.
And there's that book by John Chernoff, African Rhythm and African Sensibility, in the same way that Ian McDonald's Revolution in the Head served as a kind of gateway to me getting into 4-tracking and the recording artifice as something to be into.
Pitchfork: What do you think that influence has brought to your music?
DL: I don't know. I guess it's an ideal for me to take what you love in the same way that you take elements of your life, your personal experiences or whatever, and digest them into something new and incoherent. I like the idea of trying to make what you love unrecognizable. Although Bitte Orca is also sort of about doing the opposite of that.
i've omitted nothing. this is the entire bit of conversation on african anything in the whole stupid interview. seriously, it's as if it's a major influence, only it's not at all, even for a moment, relevant to any of the direct questions asked previously. when the journalist (hehe) asks questions about specific songs, about lyrical phrases, about various creative choices that were made, african music does not come up.
when prompted, however, by the statement "You've been influenced by musical styles from Africa," Mr. Dirty Projector, of course, has an answer loaded up. needless to say, the answer is incomprehensible. he heard some records, read a book, and though he likes the idea of making "what you love unrecognizable", his most recent record is about the opposite of that (this last part is a doozy). a simple listen to his music reveals the dearth of African influences, such as the writer means here. does this guy like african music? probably, but if it's altered his music in any significant way i can't tell. (to my ears it still sounds more Lauper than Farka Toure.)
but there's another aspect to this trend (and it is a trend; i have to hear about "african influences" playing out in all these white as paper bands and i'm like "nigga what? nigga please."): if you listen carefully, most indie rock adheres pretty strictly to the twelve-bar blues. arrangements may be getting out there (dirty projectors). vocal harmonies can be piled on top of one another until the listener gets the impression of depth (animal collective). broadly speaking, though, all of these college educated culture-loving wankers are playing songs that were written by people whose FUCKING GRANDPARENTS WERE FUCKING BORN IN FUCKING AFRICA.