Hailing from a musical family (her mother and father were jazz musicians), Angel Deradoorian played a key role in the Bitte Orca-era line-up of Dirty Projectors. She has subsequently played with Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks and has guested on tracks from The Roots and Flying Lotus, but her own solo work seems to have taken a back seat in the years since 2009’s enticing Mind Raft EP. For those in the know therefore, it has been a long wait for her debut album, but The Expanding Flower Planet more than amply repays patience and loyalty.
Although still very spare in places, The Expanding Flower Planet feels like a development from the skeletal sounds of Mind Raft. Vocal arrangements remain significant here (especially when Deradoorian seems to veer out beyond language), but familiar tropes from her work with Dirty Projectors are mostly jettisoned in favour of what seem to be more personal concerns.
For the most part, it’s an easier listen than the work of that band, although no less imaginative. More concerned with spirituality, psychedelia and otherworldly experiences, The Expanding Flower Planet finds an intriguing sonic space that encompasses hints at Alice Coltrane and Can as well as the work of near-contemporaries such as Wildbirds & Peacedrums and Julia Holter. It’s considerably less abrasive and more discreet than Dirty Projectors, but its surreal and sensual sound worlds are similarly intricate and compelling.
There’s a synaesthetic or hallucinatory quality to much of this music, with the title track particularly having a strong visual sense. Starting minimally with pitched drums, it eventually introduces a wider range of colours, perhaps inspired by composer-arrangers such as David Axelrod. Yet it never builds in to anything excessive or manipulative. Throughout The Expanding Flower Planet, Deradoorian seems keen to maintain a sense of proximity and intimacy. This is partially achieved by leaving breathing space within the music itself.
Yet within this world, Deradoorian is more than able to seem detached too. The opening A Beautiful Woman is an interesting case in point – often not much more than Deradoorian’s vocal against some undulating drums played with mallets. During the voices, she seems a little icy and removed (not entirely unlike the much missed Trish Keenan of Broadcast), but the bold choruses find her ascending gracefully and passionately. The primacy of percussion on this and The Invisible Man inevitably bring the work of Wildbirds & Peacedrums to mind, although Deradoorian certainly inhabits her own space vocally here.
There’s a meditative quality to Ouneya that somehow manages to be both introspective and appreciative of an incomprehensible wider cosmos. The ostinato organ line hints at both Alice Coltrane and Terry Riley, and Deradoorian returns repeatedly to her own hallmarks of minimalism. Meanwhile, Komodo seems to capture something of the physical senses, a combination of Eastern sounds and fairground ride thrill.
For the most part, Deradoorian leaves the preoccupations of her former collaborative roles behind to focus on her own distinctive concerns, although the unusual melodic contours and dissonant vocal harmony in Violet Minded perhaps betray the enduring influence of her work in Dirty Projectors. Certainly, though, Deradoorian has demonstrated here that she is a confident, mature and distinctive artist.