I never seem to know what to say about new solo releases from Martin Luther King Chavez Dosh, recurrent drummer for Fog and frequent touring partner to Andrew Bird. His music is so unique, abstract, and weirdly logical that it defies all industry standard pigeonholing. His self-titled debut in 2002 was arguably a work of cut-and-paste basement downtempo glitch with ambient post-rock overtones and one track featuring a complete game of pool in the background. It was kinda like early Four Tet, but more lo-fi and obscure.
Anticon mainstays Jel and Odd Nosdam helped bring together 2004’s Pure Trash, an album that opened up Dosh’s sound to harsher electronic influences—letting peaks of drum and bass shine through the glitch—as well as an increased production value. As with the debut, Pure Trash featured a wealth of looping, drum machines, and a whole lot of Fender Rhodes (the bass clarinet to his Daedelus). A couple of important developments occurred around the time of that record’s release. For one, Martin successfully proposed to his girlfriend via a track called “I Think I’m Getting Married”, which led to an EP named after his son Naoise with a track dedicated to his half-brother Tadgh. Secondly, he started touring with the Righteous Babe-approved retro swinger-songwriter Andrew Bird. Both of those things would have great effect on his next record.
The Lost Take (2006) reimagined his basement sound as a full band, with less of the lo-fi and more organic instruments. Bird chipped in some nice violin, Mike Lewis of Happy Apple lent his saxophone, and Tapes ‘n Tapes guitarist Erik Applewick threw down a few crunchy chords. Moreover, Dosh actually let some vocals grace a few tracks, including one selection written and performed by his wife, Erin. Overall, the mood was more relaxed, generally hopeful, and openly collaborative.
Dosh’s fourth solo record Wolves and Wishes picks up precisely where Lost Take stopped rolling. “Don’t Wait for the Needle to Drop” launches the festivities with fairly punchy drums, strong piano, and a taste of xylophone. The peak of the work gets there with Bird’s violin and the sonically subtle guitar of Fog chief Andrew Broder trading frequencies in an epic solo. “Kit and Pearl” also falls in with Dosh’s older style, with an uncertain downtempo beat and his signature Rhodes squaring off against a piano. Xylophone plinks, a hint of pedal steel, and sighing female vocal sounds round out the composition.
There are a couple of noticeable differences here, though. While Lost Take had some real lyrics, the vocal contributions on Wolves and Wishes merely consist of vowel heavy sounds. And yet, on a tribal level, they seem to tell more of a story here than any words could. What’s more, drone has become a serious influence.
The nine-minute epic “First Impossible” starts with some light acoustic picking. Before long, the track named after a Sun Ra poem lets loose what sounds like a broken synth wurring away. The picking swells up with erratic manipulations of other live instrumentation ‘til three and a half minutes in, when the drums finally kick in and lift off for a fleeting moment. Then, it slowly devolves back into the drone and plinks away with more rhythm than before, waiting for the drums to come back during the final few minutes. That is certainly the most ambitious track yet from Dosh. Presupposed by the percussion and vocal heavy “Bury the Ghost”, that makes Wolves and Wishes Martin’s most forward thinking record thus far.