PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Deradoorian: The Expanding Flower Planet

On her debut, the former Dirty Projectors bassist proves herself to be a vital force in contemporary experimental pop music.


The Expanding Flower Planet

Label: Anticon
US Release Date: 2015-08-21
UK Release Date: 2015-08-21

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.

Having spent time in Dirty Projectors and Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, Deradoorian is no stranger to the musical avant garde in terms of both composition and presentation. But where those groups were just that, Deradoorian is largely Angel alone, exploring Western and non-Western notions of composition and song structure, often concurrently, to create something that sounds at once familiar and utterly foreign.

But where others might seek to alienate through their atypical approach to composition, Deradoorian relies on the warm, inviting timbre of her voice to draw the listener in. Once hooked, her vocals are then surrounded by a host of world music percussion elements, synths and her rumbling, steadfast bass. Acting largely as an anchor, her bass functions often in direct counterpoint to her multi-octave voice, of which she makes full use.

Employing a droning, Krautrock-esque bass figure on opening track “A Beautiful Woman" Deradoorian uses the bass’ repetition of the same note to build a gorgeous descending vocal melody that is augmented by clattering percussion and chiming guitar. It’s a deceptively complex structure that finds her layering her vocals in atypical harmonies, all set against the single-note bass drone.

Elsewhere, she touches on the circular minimalism of Terry Riley on “Ouneya". As with “A Beautiful Woman", Deradoorian builds the song piece by piece atop the initial, repetitive figure, creating something truly haunting and beautiful in its odd tonal qualities and abstract percussion. Far more minimalistic than “Beautiful Woman”s lush chorus, it nevertheless adheres to the same basic compositional framework, one which allows for the organic development of the song within a live setting, Deradoorian looping her individual parts to create a one-woman symphony.

Throughout The Expanding Flower Planet, Deradoorian employs a host of assorted non-traditional percussion and non-Western scales to create a sound befitting her unique vocal phrasing. While ostensibly pop songs (her credits, in addition to Dirty Projectors and Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, include guest spots with U2, Charli XCX and Vampire Weekend, among others) there is a slightly off quality to each; a uniqueness that singles out each as decidedly the work of her and no one else.

There’s an almost Harry Nilsson-esque quality to her vocal approach, quickly turning phrases, diving and swooping throughout the song with myriad vocal filigrees based more in classical than popular composition. On “Violet Minded” in particular, her phrasing and stacked harmonies call to mind early Nilsson, carrying with it a certain light, playfulness that enjoys playing around with the vocal melody more than simply adhering to its basic outline.

And that is the underlying appeal of much of the music here: While certainly serious and thoughtfully composed, there is a lightness, an accessibility throughout that prevents The Expanding Flower Planet from devolving into arty pretension. This is perhaps most evident on the sing-song folk of “Komodo", a song about the titular lizard that sounds medieval, as if phoned in from another time and place far removed from our own. Likewise “Your Creator”s alternately ascending and descending melodic figure feels borrowed from some surrealist cartoon, yet manages a complex hook that lasts for days.

It’s within this wildly idiosyncratic, left-of-center approach to pop music that Angel Deradoorian’s appeal lies. While it would be easy to dismiss the album upon first listen, further exploration exposes a rich tapestry of sounds and ideas so dense it could take years to parse them all out, this in spite of their apparent simplicity. Having graduated from both Dirty Projectors and Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, The Expanding Flower Planet is a confident declaration of independence from a vital artist operating at the top of her creative game.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.