Dirty Projectors was a solo project of Dave Longstreth, years before Angel Deradoorian arrived as a second vocalist and bassist. But when she and guitarist/vocalist Amber Coffman joined the outfit for Rise Above, Dirty Projectors became a band rather than simply the name for Longstreth's experiments. Though he had always made great music, Deradoorian's vocal precision anchored his wild runs and shouts, keeping them grounded in the song rather than floating above it.
Strangely, this airy, floating quality reappears on Mind Raft, Deradoorian's first solo EP. She calls her record "five gothed-out psych tracks for you to do drugs to, or something..." but this self-effacing description doesn't quite fit. Though she names the opener "Weed Jam," track number four's title — "Holding Pattern" — really approximates the sound of her EP: she's more comfortable lingering on a few repeated, tweaked ideas than cycling through melody after melody. "Weed Jam" twists a wordless, sighing vocal melody and some shifting harmonies over a few snare hits and bass notes. It feels appropriately drowsy and hypnotic. But "High Road" uses a few verses to gorgeous effect, drawing out long vocal lines over a prickly, modulating melody.
The R&B-influenced "You Carry the Deed" is an exercise in restraint. The track's acoustic guitar strums and flute seem incidental: as usual, the real meat of the song is her vocals. Deradoorian pushes away her antagonist in the first verse with a series of vague questions. The second verse remains vague, but when she pushes just a little melisma to accent her repeated "I knows," they take on more emotional resonance than the most confessional of songs.
Much of Dirty Projectors' vocals trade in R&B-style runs and riffs. And while Mind Raft can't touch the cult ecstasy of her main gig, her solo work has an emotional dimension lacking in a lot of Longstreth's songs. Take, as a last example, the little vocal ripples she adds to album closer "Moon." The song's as simple as any on the record, but the Middle-Eastern-tinged quavering of the word "cry" sounds well-nigh onomatopoeic. Maybe it's easier to hide behind a jokey self-description than to admit to producing something honest.