Deep Six: Dirty Projectors is as obscure as ever.

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Dirty Projectors auteur David Longstreth has made a career out of working on the far-right edge of pop music’s pretension continuum—toiling in that special place reserved for musicians who slave over the placement of every note and seed their stuff with enough clever obscurities to almost warrant an annotated guide. And though fans have stuck with him through various challenging projects—including 2007’s Rise Above, Dirty Projectors’ dynamic, if totally wanky, re-imagining of the monolithic Black Flag album of the same name—Longstreth sure does make it tough on them. Bitte Orca finds the Brooklyn band still gunning for brainy perfection, even if that pursuit sometimes makes listening to the album trying. On “Temecula Sunrise,” Longstreth and the five other musicians who are his obvious subordinates mingle carefully noodley guitar lines with an off-balance drum entrance and a guitar solo that takes up so much space it seems more like a brief theme. The album’s first single, “Stillness Is the Move,” offers repetitive guitar hooks, a collection of synths, and vocal timing and inflection that seem designed to mimic modern R&B, but it still manages to feel slightly off-kilter. And throughout Bitte Orca, the band sings with concurrent nods to the acquired-taste styles of Björk, Antony, and Shudder to Think’s Craig Wedren. There’s a flood of such references on Bitte Orca, which asks listeners to pick out allusions to artists like Phil Collins (the gated-reverb drum fill on “Fluorescent Half Dome”) and Nico (“Two Doves,” a schizophrenic riff on Chelsea Girl). The resulting sum of Bitte Orca—really, the collected discography of Dirty Projectors—is taxing. And, in all likelihood, that’s what Longstreth intended. As singer/guitarist Amber Coffman told the New York Times, “Dave pushes you beyond where you thought you could go….He pushes and pushes, and sometimes you feel like you’re going to have a breakdown. But at the end of it you are realizing a new level of capability within yourself.” That approach may work well for band practice, but effort doesn’t always sound good in stereo.