Angel Deradoorian: The Expanding Flower Plant

Music Reviews
Angel Deradoorian: The Expanding Flower Plant

Angel Deradoorian rejects the “new age” tag. While a belief in and respect for supreme energies informs and sustains the unflinching individuality of her full-length debut, The Expanding Flower Plant, she’s just not into any sort of knee-jerk reductionist genre compartmentalization. To maneuver through her record you’ll need to free yourself from cowboy Americana and consumer pop standardization.

The white noise, the vexing and inescapable hum of technocratic progress, that loud presence in our lives is muted to revel in the blissful and amaranthine. The Expanding Flower Plant does not hear you thumb-typing, does not send push notifications or alert you when activity has lessened. In the same way that a Can record can feel jarringly alive due to the magnitude of the groove or Damo Suzuki’s scattered outbursts, Deradoorian’s debut is rooted in the psychedelic purity of expression rather than the daisy-age delusions. It begins here with “A Beautiful Woman,” in its stoned groove and Exuma-esque textural vocalizations, as an xx-chromosome battle cry both immediate and timeless.

Angel Deradoorian’s involvement with Dirty Projectors, Avey Tare and collaborations with Flying Lotus are not up for inclusion in the conversation surrounding The Expanding Flower Plant. Be mindful of those who chose to do so. The vocal tricks of arpeggiated rises on the frontend of “Violet Minded” will invariably be cited as Dirty Projectors-esque, but its presence is fleeting in the breadth of the record. However, her collaboration with Björk on the Mount Wittenburg Orca EP is relevant. There is a sisterhood with the experimental singer felt most prominently in Deradoorian’s propensity for free-form vocal arrangements to flesh out the sonics. Many times on the record Deradoorian creates harmonic loops of herself, both breathy and pentatonic, to accentuate herself as many. It’s a clever device—sometimes simulating omnipotence like on “The Invisible Man”—that offsets the introversion of her songwriting.

The Expanding Flower Plant knows itself. A bassist by trade, Deradoorian brought in players to contribute drums to replace her novice work, but she did not hire virtuosos to redeem her metronomic template. She left her shortcomings in percussion present and unashamed. This is the character of the rhythm section, both the definitive and the primitive, tenderfoot decoration. On “Komodo” the bass hums the narrative like a forewarning presence, while the percussion is minimal accompaniment. Do not mistake this as addressing fault in the record. The balance and minimalism offer space for Deradoorian’s exotic vocalizations and waltzy keys. Take “Grow,” which enters like The Expanding Flower Plant might depart on a medieval folk note, before Deradoorian thwarts the eurocentricity with another stoned groove in which she bellows the word “grow” like a toad in rhythm over reeds and sparse, off-kilter percussion. Before this closer, there are invariable moments in which Deradoorian seems cornered or pegged, that the record is figured out and understood. Then “Grow” happens. An immaculate exit that invalidates those early suspicions of safety.

Granted, it was in her arsenal before meeting Björk and Avey Tare. There was more to be said of her individualism on the Mind Raft EP in 2009 were it not for the interruption of Dirty Projector’s Bitte Orca arriving a month later. Even in its raw state, the EP should have sustained the young artist—discreetly it did. In 2015 everyone apparently remembers the Mind Raft EP; for five years, no one said much of it because Bitte Orca happened. So it goes.

The Expanding Flower Plant hits the reset button on Deradoorian’s solo career, and that curiosity in knowing such a reset is possible informs her official debut. She understands the properties and possibilities of an expanding flower plant and lets the idea of such possibility guide her songwriting. It channels the ancient and mythological without succumbing entirely, and supersedes it with the daring spirit of a 21st century woman.

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