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.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.