The Dirty Projectors play with a chaotic precision that’s somehow almost menacing. At Pearl Street Monday for their first Northampton show since 2007, the band turned rock ‘n’ roll abandon upside down, reveling instead in rigid order as they marched through complex songs full of interlocking parts layered one over the other into dense arrangements that paired taut, angular rhythms with discursive melodies and female vocal harmonies at once ethereal and machine-like.
The Brooklyn band focused on its most recent albums, last year’s “Swing Lo Magellan” and 2010’s “Bitte Orca” in a 14-song set. A chopping rhythm burst into a booming beat on “Offspring Are Blank,” blurry keyboards sped up and slowed down over secret, crumbling rhythm parts on “See What She Seeing” and leader David Longstreth sang at the delicate high end of his vocal range over bursts of drums and guitar on “Useful Chamber.”
Longstreth ceded lead vocal duties to guitarist Amber Coffman on “The Socialites,” backing her with a guitar part that called to mind a malfunctioning Simon game. He played brittle guitar lines over a straight-ahead beat on “About to Die,” and added sinewy, twisting leads over polyrhythmic handclaps on “Just From Chevron.” The band pared back to drums, bass and prismatic layers of eerie harmony vocals backing Longstreth’s animated lead on last year’s discomfiting single “Gun Has No Trigger,” and took a more delicate turn on “When You Wake Up,” with a curtain of keyboards glimmering as if stirred by a breeze.
The group only got stronger as the show progressed, culminating in the strangely funky “Stillness Is the Move” midway through a three-song encore. With Coffman singing R&B vocal lines refracted through an avant-garde indie lens, Longstreth added slippery, siren-like guitar parts over a deep, comparatively simple rhythm part. It was an utterly arresting performance from a band thoughtful enough to bring the crowd down gently afterward with the simple, emotional “Dance for You” to close the show.