The Expanding Flower Planet
anticon., 21st August 2015
Deradoorian’s debut full length album has been a long time coming. The work of the bassist of Avery Tare’s Slasher Flicks and ex-Dirty Projectors member, The Expanding Flower Planet couldn’t really be anything short of cerebral folk-pop. Angel Deradoorian, by way of a CV, has it pretty much made, so all that was left was to see how her solo endeavours have progressed from the ‘weed jams’ of Mind Raft EP (2009). Both of these precursory projects have undoubtedly influenced the album; Longstreth’s use of antiphony and “hocketing” bubbles up in Deradoorian’s own composition, as does Tare’s joyfully simple but busy basslines. What becomes apparent, though, is that Deradoorian is pulling out aspects and incorporating them into her own more spiritual and feminine-perhaps even Amazonian-offerings.
‘A Beautiful Woman’, the first single of the album to be released, opens with the swelling vocals that are emblematic of the Mind Raft EP and of Dirty Projectors’ harmonies. The instrumental bassline sets up a circular and regular skeleton in which Angel’s repetitions of “beautiful woman” progress and expand in a kind of mantra. On Vimeo, a live performance of the track perfectly demonstrates these hymnic qualities.
The title track starts off sparingly, pre-emptively teasing the rich outburst of choral cries. These cries resonate behind Deradoorian’s melodic scepticism towards what she perceives as a modern, or perhaps exclusively western, rejection of spirituality, or, as her label anticon put it, “psychic expansion”. The eastern inflection that runs throughout the album perhaps points towards an existing alternative and the more hopeful chorus of “we all know much more than we really think we know”. Indeed, in an interview, Angel said that the album “represents this desire to broaden the mind and its capabilities beyond what we are told it can do.” The various world influences that flavour the whole album become an exercise in this broadening and Deradoorian succeeds in yoking it all together under more familiar psychedelic-rock.
‘Violet Minded’ and ‘Your Creator’ particularly stand out as personal favourites. ‘Violet Minded’ is beautiful and eerie. The keyboard intro is bizarrely Life-Aquatic-esque. Again Deradoorian’s vocals layer up to choral proportions; her imaginative harmonic progression becomes the most effective instrument. From 3.30 mins, this progression is realised in a kind of ecstatic control of her almost-not-quite raga vocals. The melody of the repeated call and response “what body, one warm body” culminates in a jubilant riff. “Your Creator” relishes in its childlike repetitions and melody lines. The crunchy drums and kitsch mirroring of vocal melodies feel less cerebral though, and the song is perhaps more honest for it, simply stating “if you want you will know”. Numerous tracks play with the simplicity or naturalness of the ideas Deradoorian is tackling. ‘DarkLord’ candidly asks, “if it’s possible tell me now? Can you move for no reason?” over dark guitars (the opening smacks of Ought post-punk moodiness oddly enough). It’s existential and spiritual but rather than alienating, it’s urgent and legible due to the beautiful melodies and supporting bass phrases. This is also true of ‘The Eye’ with its poppy drums and repeated auto-tuned/ reverb-y refrains.
“Her philosophy is one of unadulterated spiritual and musical development”
The Expanding Flower Planet is an aural treat, but anticon’s press release and most of what I’ve put above work against it. Throw in words like “ethereal” and “enlightening” and the alarm bells of pretention start ringing. Perhaps positively, though, Deradoorian challenges me to confront my squeamishness towards the epiphanic and affectedly cerebral (or else simply disregards it). If her philosophy is one of unadulterated interest in spiritual and musical development I’ll happily subscribe to it. As my sister said about track ‘The Invisible Man’, “I wasn’t listening. I was enjoying”. I advise a similar approach if you’re getting caught up its potential pretentiousness, because it sounds fucking good.This album is immensely rich in its twisting fusions. From Mind Raft EP we see the same existential ideas played out but they are clarified and accented by the Indian and Middle Eastern influences that resonate throughout The Expanding Flower Planet. Angel Deradoorian’s ideas, and her sonic repitoire, have broken out of their stoner perpetuity to cross borders. Although mapping an internal spiritual journey, this offering seems less choked up by plumes of marijuana smoke and for that, ultimately more mature. As far as a debut goes it is apparent that, despite the perhaps suffocating association she has with some of the best minds in the American alternative scene, Deradoorian is coming into her own.