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The Juggling Act: Dosh, May 28 at the Redstone Room PDF Print E-mail
Music - Feature Stories
Wednesday, 28 May 2008 02:30

Martin Dosh Martin Dosh, a frequent collaborator with Andrew Bird and a member of his live band, makes electronic music that doesn't sound the least bit electronic.

Yes, there are recognizable synthesized and loop elements and ambient textures, but with live drumming (instead of a drum machine) and breathing cohorts, it comes off as personal instead of mechanized. Its pulse is certainly stronger than most music of any genre composed to a formula.

"It's still at the base rock and roll," Dosh said last week in a phone interview. "It's not somebody with a laptop on stage ... ."

On Wolves & Wishes, which was released earlier this month and features contributions from Bird and Bonnie "Prince" Billy, a guitar is prominent in most songs, and Dosh's drumming is the anchor, a clear human element in mostly instrumental tracks obviously built with the aid of modern technology.

Compared to other electronic music, Dosh said, his work is "more of an organic thing. ... There's not a lot of drum machines on it. ... It's kind of loose. "

The Minneapolis-based Dosh will perform at the Redstone Room on Wednesday, May 28, and live performance for him started merely as a necessity. He didn't perform a live solo show until after he'd finished his first record.

Initially, it was just Dosh on stage, with his drums, a Fender Rhodes electric piano, a Juno 106 synthesizer, a sampler, and looping pedals. He would start with an ambient loop on the Rhodes, and build layers on top of it.

Martin Dosh He called his live performance "just sort of a juggling act between these three different loop pedals, going back and forth between them and trying to keep it cohesive and interesting and sounding cool, too."

And the value is as much in the witnessing of creation as the music. "I hope they [audience members] enjoy watching me attempt to re-create these songs in this sort of convoluted way," Dosh said. "It's always a challenge for me to play a show."

The tunes he first recorded, he noted, had to be reinvented for live performance. "Initially, I would have to radically rethink how a song went in order to pull it off by myself solo," he said. Now, though, "the songs are sounding much closer to the recorded version than they used to. ... It is a difference in composition, but it wasn't something that was intentional or that I thought about ahead of time."

These days, Dosh tours with Mike Lewis, who plays sax, bass, and keys, and "the next thing I would want to have [live] is a guitar."

Dosh got his first drum set when he was 15 and learned to play by listening closely to Led Zeppelin's John Bonham, Yes' Bill Bruford, and Rush's Neil Peart. A friend's four-track recorder introduced him to the joys of layering. "At that point, I became obsessed with recording stuff," Dosh said. When he first tried a looping pedal, it gave him the critical elements of his present live arsenal.

Dosh said when he's not on tour, he spends several hours each night in his basement, working with a chord sequencer.

"I'm basically recording stuff all the time," he said. He'll then take those melodic loops into the studio, where he'll record drums over them. And then he'll bring those recordings back home, adding new elements.

"The record ... sort of reveals itself to me at some point," he said. He finds a handful of tracks that might work well together, and then brings in collaborators, who might add guitar, violin, vocals, whatever.

"That sort of ties it together more than anything I do," Dosh said.

Martin Dosh Jeremy Ylvisaker's guitar plays a key role on Wolves & Wishes, Dosh said. It at times has a fuzzy drone, not unlike My Bloody Valentine, and at other times has more of an edge and a leading energy. That guitar builds a bridge between the record's organic and electronic elements. "That is one of the things that helps glue it together, and gives it a little more focus," Dosh said.

"Bury the Ghost" has spastic drums and a chant that sounds drawn from Native American culture before it jumps the tracks into a digital fog. "If You Want to, You Have to" has something akin to traditional keyboard melodies, and it's couched in so much warm fuzz that it's hard not to smile.

Without the benefits of verses, choruses, or a stable idiom, Dosh's latest is surprisingly accessible. Compared to previous recordings, Dosh said, his fourth record is "a little bit more patient."

Dosh said he recognizes that the market for instrumental electronic music is limited, and when he has the time - which he said is in short supply because of his work with Bird - he'll prepare a record that might appeal to a wider audience: "The next step is actually vocals, and getting words and that sort of thing."



Dosh will perform on Wednesday, May 28, at the Redstone Room in Davenport. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets are $8.


For more information on Dosh, visit (

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