The Dirty Projectors, 'Hi Custodian': A Study In Amateur Genius
  • WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2012

  • Posted by: Malcolm Donaldson

Last week, The Dirty Projectors premiered Hi Custodian, a 20 minute visual pairing to their casually brilliant new album Swing Lo, Magellan. After seeing a couple of previews showing clips of paddy cake, goatees, adult diapers and shared hair braids, I was positive that lead-man Dave Longstreth's directorial debut was going to be odd, at least. It turned out that, akin to The Dirty Projectors music, it was extremely unusual. But also like their music, it was enjoyable beyond its oddities: Hi Custodian is visually arresting, abstract and -- most surprisingly -- very funny, often all at once.

The premier at Landmark Sunshine cinema in Manhattan was very well attended, filling the theater for three different showings, and featuring two Q&As from the band and director of photography Bobby Bukowski. The 20 minute film features most of the tracks from Swing Lo, Magellan. None of the tracks were played in their entirety, save the end credits, but that was part of what made the film excellent: Hi Custodian shows the tracks on Swing Lo from a very different perspective. It transformed a their casual pop record into a classically orchestrated, mostly lyricless composition. Longstreth described his initial ideas in the Q&A, "I was writing (visual) treatments for these songs, and they all started bleeding into one and other... I thought we could just make this into a weird surreal journey, make it a continuous thing."

To someone who is well-versed in film making, Hi Custodian may seem like an amateur piece of work. Longstreth would admit that it is. After the screening, he pointed at the screen and said "I had no idea how to make that," and listed Die Hard and Ghostbusters as his two main influences. But its amateur quality takes nothing away from how enjoyable it is to watch. I posit to you that soft-core Prius bubble baths or Nat Baldwin in a goatee and a red track suit is amazing no matter if it's shot by Longstreth or Scorsese. At the end of the interview Longstreth joked that it was all feature films and no more music for The Dirty Projectors from here on out. While no one wants the latter to be true, Hi Custodian shows what formidable films this group is capable of making, and I hope they keep making many more. Also, who wouldn't want to see "Die Hard, Bill Murray: A Dirty Projectors Opera"?

Listen to the full Q+A:



Watch the feature below, and make sure to play along at home with Baeble's own Hi Custodian drinking game. You may want to clear your schedule for the rest of the day if you're going to do that though.

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