Former Dirty Projectors vocalist and bassist Angel Deradoorian has become one of out-rock’s most valued utility players, collaborating with some of the brightest, most bizarre artists of our generation, including Björk, Flying Lotus and Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks — not to mention lending her dulcet pipes to songs by Brandon Flowers and U2, among others. Now, recording under the shortened sobriquet Deradoorian, she is breaking out on her own.
Over the course of four years, she recorded in spaces from Baltimore to Los Angeles in between tours, building what would become her debut album, The Expanding Flower Planet. It’s a labyrinthine feat with complexities that unfold with each listen, recalling the freewheeling sensibilities of Can and Alice Coltrane, drawing on Hindu cosmology, East Indian spatial sensibilities, Native American rhythms and Japanese mysticism. Rolling Stone caught up with Deradoorian before she kicks off more than two dozen tour dates to talk about the benefits of solitude and recording as healing.
You play everything on The Expanding Flower Planet. What was the first instrument you picked up?
I played violin from, like, [ages] five to seven. But that’s because I went to a school with a teacher that thought all the kids should learn violin. I didn’t really connect with that instrument. My parents then asked me if I wanted to learn an instrument and to pick it, and I chose piano. So I started playing on this great, old upright piano in our house. The sound is so crazy and unlike any other piano I’ve heard, and still haven’t heard a piano that sounds like it. I was probably a little too young to think about playing something like the drums. Piano, I connected with it because it was such a distinct challenge as a kid. Beyond listening to music, it’s also about coordination, training your mind in a different way to use your hands and separate your mind from your hands and separate parts.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that you set out to work with specific sounds on your new album. Which sounds were conscious and which ones did you find by surprise?
I wanted to get more deeply touring with synthesizers I had, and getting some more specific tones out of those. . . . I was probably talking a little bit about the spatial aspects of the music and wanting to, even in the demos, mess with the mixing or the placement of sounds, the distance they have to each other. A lot of the surprise sounds came from my pedals, twisting knobs and fading the settings. I mean . . . I kind of know what I’m doing. But at the same time it’s all an experiment getting into all those pedals.
A fair amount of improvisation helped informed this record, too?
I think that’s also why this record might sound kind of . . . crazy to some people. I didn’t want to keep mining certain sounds when I found things I liked. I wanted to roll with it.