Dirty Projectors, Lo and Hi


There’s something sacred about the trailer for Dirty Projectors‘ forthcoming short film, Hi Custodian, even if you aren’t a religious fan of their experimental rock. Biblical imagery abounds, from cloaked women standing by rivers to shaggy-headed men limping through the desert. Early on, as if to officially announce the video’s Judeo-Christian mood, a crowd of rabbis and cardinals marches across the screen. Set it all to a slew of rock-gospel tracks off the group’s new album, Swing Lo Magellan (out July 10), and the whole thing has a very Jesus Christ Superstar vibe to it.

Maybe they’re acknowledging their place atop the altar of indie music, or indulging in the same tradition as other artists who have toyed with extended music videos—like Kanye West (Runaway) and Prince (Purple Rain). Their take on the format stars five of the band’s six members in a number of odd roles: David Longstreth as a shape-shifting spirit, Amber Coffman as a love-struck wanderer, Nat Baldwin as both a trucker and a newborn child, Mike Johnson as a bedside doctor, and Haley Dekle as a young girl from the British Isles. Coffman and Dekle also play sister Fates, who appear to loosely narrate the whole surreal narrative.

A couple of indie-art-house tropes make an appearance—what’s a good music video these days without a shot of two waifish girls whose hair is braided together, or someone walking through suburbia in a pair of boyish tighty-whities? Still, the draw here is the new music, which gets progressively catchier and less hymnlike over the course of the trailer’s two minutes. There’s something pleasantly disconcerting in the cheery chorus announcing imminent death just before the film’s title flashes. The trailer’s last moments, though, are filled with a sweet love song. There’s nothing shockingly novel about the preview, but it’s hard to believe that the Dirty Projectors aren’t recreating these slightly overdone images without some level of self-awareness.

The short film, which was written and directed by Longstreth and shot over five days in late April, is scheduled for release later this summer. Whether it turns out to be an earnest stab at the somewhat clichéd images in its trailer or a very meta commentary on them, it will be hard to take issue with the alternate and unreleased recordings it features. For now, these two minutes are quite the tease.