In setting out to create his fifth album for Anticon, Martin Dosh had two goals in mind. First: Get loose. 2008’s Wolves & Wishes took a step in this direction by way of its guests – freewheelers like Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Odd Nosdam – but Dosh records are well-known for their impeccable arrangements. To wit, Andrew Bird used W&W’s “First Impossible” as the rhythmic backbone for a song on last year’s critically acclaimed Noble Beast LP. (Dosh has been collaborating, recording and touring with Bird since 2005.)
Dosh’s second goal seemed to be in direct conflict with the first: To conceive yet thicker terrain for his already seething soundscapes. More drums. More vocals. And new to the Dosh catalog, lots of low end. Against all odds, Tommy skirts critical mass but stays organic, is never overwrought, and miraculously avoids becoming cluttered. Instead, this unique brand of maximalist, rhythm- driven post-rock sweeps lilting beauty, serious beats and even airy moments into its comely whirlwind.
When Tommy begins, “Subtractions” is already in full swing, as a dark assembly of grunts, buzzing, and kalimba transitions into marimba plunks and note-hopping electric guitar. The song evolves throughout its four minutes, eventually resolving in Tortoise-y figures played out on an array of instruments. “Yer Face” opens on a loop too, but quickly distinguishes itself via standup bass, syncopated keys, and a rare lyrical performance by Dosh. Andrew Bird sings on “Number 41,” over pedal steel and a bassy beat chopped aÌ la Radiohead’s “Pulk/Push Revolving Doors.”
“Town Mouse” plays like a warm, wide-open jam session, with different drum kits coming from different speakers, Dosh humming throughout, and bandmate Mike Lewis’ horns flying over fuzzy Rhodes blurts. True to Dosh’s letting go of control, Lewis actually wrote “Loud,” a gorgeously spare piece that ambles off into the horizon before “Airlift” wraps Tommy’s first half with lo-bit keys and a cut-up sample of Dosh and a friend covering Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” back in ’87. “County Road X” tills different soil still, largely focusing on improvised piano and glistening atmospherics.
Next is “Call The Kettle,” a live fan favorite dating back to 2001 that finally gets an official release, albeit one reinvented by the dense, mesmeric thicket of notes played on saxophone, acoustic guitar, and 200-year-old harpsichord (recorded at St. Paul’s Schubert Club music museum). Bird returns to lay his light twang over the heavy feedback wash of “Nevermet,” while the bright epic “Gare De Lyon” slowly builds – for eight and a half minutes – to the album’s close.
On this final song, Dosh stretches out immensely, nursing melodic sprawl through a tense percussive passage and on to a huge finish: an explosion of thrashing bass and drums that burns brightly before the record comes to a crashing halt. The abrupt finale fits Tommy, which is dedicated to and named after Dosh soundman Tom Cesario, a dear friend who unexpectedly passed two Christmases ago. Here, Dosh pays his respects best as he can, coming away with a record inspired by tragedy, but undeniably full of life.
* download card included with all vinyl orders of this release.