Imagine Henry Rollins conducting your high school orchestra and you're getting close to the confounding beauty of Dirty Projectors' Rise Above. The story is this: while cleaning out his childhood bedroom, chief (and often sole) Dirty Projector Dave Longstreth found the empty cassette case for Black Flag's 1981 magnum opus, Damaged, an album he'd loved as a youngster and since forgotten. Longstreth decided a recreation of Damaged was in order, but being the sort of guy who writes glitch-hop chamber operas about Don Henley (2005's improbably lovely The Getty Address), he didn't dig up the lost cassette, and instead tried to recreate the album impressionistically from memory.
The result, Rise Above, is as gorgeous and bizarre a document as anything Longstreth has released. Initially, it sounds nothing like Black Flag, and entirely like a typical DPs mind-melter — Longstreth's sweetly busted wail doubles and triples over a warbling female chorus; joyful orchestrations are shoehorned into schizophrenic time signatures; songs jitter into unexpected silences. All the expando-pop wizardry is brought down to earth a little, though, by Longstreth's fealty to the memory of Damaged. Rise Above includes a completely aggro electric guitar and a few bursts of assaultive rock drums, as the mosh pit smashes into the orchestra pit.