There are two types of experimental musicians. The first experiments out of necessity; as a way to consciously differentiate one's sound from music's ongoing narrative. This is something that must be deliberately worked at, and requires talent, guts and near-perfect timing to pull off successfully. The second type of musician experiments because, well, they're bored. These guys are the genre benders who &mdash for lack of better descriptors — are so "good" at making music that traditional mechanical confines are not only insipid— they're invisible. My gut tells me that Anticon's Dosh
falls clearly in the latter.
Anticon is great because they're a label fully invested in pestering hip-hop's traditional model with inflections of avant-garde. Dosh's 5th full-length album, Tommy
, fires with rhythmic shards of jazz, folk, glitch, 8-bit and a healthy dose of marimba. The only problem is that when held against his previous album, 2008's brilliant Wolves and Wishes
, these inflections hit with the velocity of an airsoft pistol.
This isn't a bad thing. Dosh flitters in-and-out of musical themes with a gifted sort of ease— that much is clear. His live show
demonstrates a near-complete mastery of sound, orchestration, pacing and dynamics. It's magnetic. Tommy
— though not without its standouts — leaves you wanting more, but in the sense that the album feels incomplete.
"Subtractions" is an interesting lead-off track. It's fun, fast and light, and showcases Dosh's dexterous command of rhythm over arpeggio'd loopings of industrial weighted keyboards. "Number 41" soon follows, and enlists the vocals of oft-collaborator Andrew Bird over fuzzy hip-hop drums and piercingly wah-wah'd slide guitar.
It feels as though Dosh is at his best, however, when crossing multiple musical landscapes in-track. "Airlift" takes 8-bit, horns and an ultra-groovy, barely-audible bass line and turns it into a multi-dimensional soundscape. It's an organic kind of complexity, one wrought with lushly colored jazz textures. It's wonderful.
The downside is that Tommy
is paced with a few tracks that are painstakingly plain. "Loud" comes to mind; it sounds easy, like a haphazardly thrown together ambient track produced for the sake of pacing the album. "Nevermet" is similarly afflicted, and sounds like a listless reinterpretation of something Broken Social Scene. The ideas are there. The execution isn't, and you get the feeling that he knows it, too.
Needless to say, these tracks are more than forgivable, especially if they're used to contrast Dosh's frequent flourishes of genius. Perhaps this is best indicated in the album's closer, "Gare de Lyon", which sounds far and away the most complete and uninterrupted. There's a flow there — for all 8+ minutes of it — that makes you feel like Dosh is showcasing his vision of the future, giving us glimpses of great things yet to come. Or maybe he's just fucking with us out of boredom, which is completely okay, too. -chris gayomali
* * * * * * * * * * * *
MP3: "Number 41" (Tommy)
Dosh on Myspace