A radical shift in her sound.
Angel Deradoorian, most commonly associated with Bitte Orca-era Dirty Projectors, has been crafting her solo act for years. Both the 2009 EP Mind Raft and her 2015 full-length album, The Expanding Flower Planet, showcase her affinity for mellow, unobtrusive indie rock. Aside from that, she’s worked with an impressive and broad array of collaborators including Flying Lotus, Matmos, U2, Vampire Weekend, Charlie XCX, the Roots and Prefuse 73, experiences the chanteuse has internalized for her own material. But Eternal Recurrence isn’t another EP of rock ballads; it’s a radical shift in her sound.
Eternal Recurrence’s most defining characteristic is its absence of percussion. In fact, only a few instruments are used at all. This figures into its calming, symmetric mood, which is austere, but never bleak. Throughout, Deradoorian’s voice ripples in and out, allowing the listener to descend into a reflective state. It’s no surprise that meditation and yoga are a regular part of the songwriter’s life; the album is a modern New Age update, with few of the adverse connotations the genre brings with it. The clearest antecedents are The Expanding Flower Planet’s synth-led “The Invisible Man” and the ethereal “Ouneya,” but imagine these stripped to their barest.
The direction isn’t totally unexpected. During a Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival set in late 2016, Deradoorian tested the waters with a similarly sparse set featuring mainly her voice, a Juno 60 synth and a fluttering woodwind. Using so few elements created an immediate contrast, the Juno’s thick bass drone offset by the crisp pitch of the wind instrument. Deradoorian, sitting in a lotus position onstage with the synth, intoned a poem that could have slotted into Eternal Recurrence’s lyrics.
Deradoorian’s artistic transition from indie-friendly, traditionally-arranged songs to experimental pieces is a welcome one. She’s unafraid to let bookends “Love Arise” and “Mirrorman” drop into complete silence several times, otherwise allowing her freeform playing and singing to carry their own weight. The starkness is its central appeal, a minimal approach informed more by Eastern chants and less by her indie rock roots.
The album functions like a set of morning mantras to be intoned around intense meditation sessions. This becomes the most literal with “Ausar Temple,” which employs bell and metal bowl sounds familiar to anyone practicing regular mindfulness. It’s the most forgettable of the sextet, perhaps also because it’s the only instrumental. However, this is all forgiven by “Nia in the Dark,” the song with the most momentum and the clearest metronome. The long, spacey buildup of “Return-Transcend” and the garbled piano melody of “Mountainside” round out the effort, the latter of which reprise the Brooklyn festival woodwind idea.
Percussion would disrupt the placid nature of the EP, so it’s a good call that Deradoorian forgoes drums for the entire album. The same can be said for its half-hour length: a suitable serving size for such a simplified approach. Eternal Recurrence fascinates because of Deradoorian’s abandonment of traditional song structures and its sheer limitations of timbres. The songwriter has opened herself up to a more experimental vein, which she should continue to push.