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|Active Possibilities: The Dodos, July 10 at Huckleberry’s|
|Music - Feature Stories|
|Wednesday, 02 July 2008 02:36|
The Dodos exist at the nexus of world music, country blues, heavy metal, and songcraft, and while it is as strange as it sounds, it's also pretty natural.
The San Francisco-based duo of guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber will play at Huckleberry's on July 10, and banish any thoughts of the White Stripes and the Black Keys. Yes, there are big drums and virtuosic guitar, but the band - like Andrew Bird and Neutral Milk Hotel - takes an aggressively idiosyncratic approach to mostly acoustic pop music; it's infectious but alien. The taste-makers at Pitchfork called the band's March release Visiter "one of the most welcoming (and welcome) records of 2008 so far."
"Acoustic instruments often get a bad rap of being slightly demure when recorded," Kroeber said last week. "We wanted to bring out the whole active possibilities of the acoustic guitar and drums on record. They're actually very explosive instruments when done right. That was our goal in recording, to bring all that energy out of them."
He added: "We amplify and mic the drums and guitar in such a way to have them be really big live."
Long told one interviewer: "What we're going for is what it would sound like if you stuck your head inside the acoustic guitar, or the drum itself, where those instruments sound huge and present, and while everything else just sort of filters in through the wood."
(This is an evolution of Long's understanding of the Dodos' music. In 2006, his description was far cruder: "There's a lot of finger-picking, banging, and stuff.")
Kroeber said both he and Long have an interest in percussion outside of pop music. "I was into a lot of prog-y and jazz-fusion stuff and metal in my earlier days, and Meric was more world-music stuff of different varieties, and we sort of meshed those two together," he said. "The common ground was the country-blues stuff that Meric was doing."
The surprisingly hard-hitting Visiter starts innocuously enough, with folky banjo and guitar, a steady background beat, and vocals as clear and crisp as a cool fall morning. But that introduction segues into "Red & Purple," which starts fey with its toy piano woven into an dense fabric of guitar and percussion but is ultimately distinguished by fantastically incongruous, rubbery, low-end guitar passages.
The record's fourth track, "Fools," is a calling card. Light, nearly ecstatic calls in the chorus, impatient percussion and acoustic guitar, spastic but muted bursts of distorted guitars, a low hum of strings - the conviction and confidence of the execution carries the listener to the Dodos' strange place.
Visiter's big, cacophonous sound might seem to have reach the dynamic limits of the folk blues at its center, but Kroeber thinks there's still room for growth. "I still want the big sound that we were going for, but ... what I want the new stuff to have is a ‘tightness.' I want things to be really sinewy ... . I want things to be really lean and mean sounding. I still want there to be lots of room sound and spaciousness to it, but I want there to be more of a controlled sound."
But he also sees the potential for something that blows past any conventional idea of folk music.
"I had a dream the other night that Meric and I were tracking a new song, and I was doing a full double-bass heavy-metal setup," Kroeber said. "I feel like I've become a much better drummer playing with Meric over the past few years. If I got back on to a standard drum kit or a metal drum kit, I'd be able to do something cool, something new, there, too. ...
"I've got a knack in the band for remembering riff and song ideas that Meric discards. ... There's one in my little file that's called ‘The Original Folk Metal,' And it was this one jam that we did a long time ago. It was super-, super-fast finger-picking on his part, and just like super-, super-fast tom work on my part that sounded like double-bass drumming for metal. And it was totally kinetic and crazy. There's been shades of it in the past. There could be a little of that" on future records.
For more information on the Dodos, visit (http://dodosmusic.net).
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