(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Album Review: The Dodos – Individ

By on Tuesday, 27th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Header photo by Chloe Aftel

The Dodos Individ cover artSan Francisco alt-rock duo The Dodos, comprised of lead singer and guitarist Meric Long and drummer Logan Kroeber, met and began making music together in 2005. Naturally, given their instrumental preferences, their sound is heavily rhythmic, combining the complex syncopations of Long’s guitar parts and the propulsive motion of Kroeber’s percussion. Having turned from a primarily acoustic sound to electric guitar on 2011’s ‘No Color’ and following the idea through 2013’s ‘Carrier’, The Dodos have carried the development of their style a step further on their latest album, ‘Individ’.

According to Long, “the best time to make a record is right after you’ve finished one”. The Dodos began recording ‘Individ’ immediately after finishing ‘Carrier’ with producers Jay and Ian Pellici, using the analog equipment at San Francisco’s Tiny Telephone Studios. ‘Carrier’ was indeed an immediate and energetic album, purposefully written with the addition of punk guitarist Christopher Reimer as a touring member of the band in mind. Reimer’s untimely death just before the album was recorded certainly had an impact on the final sound, and his influence on Long’s songwriting, which Long himself describes as “patience to let a song develop and a judgment-free enthusiasm for sound”, can be heard not only on ‘Carrier’ but carrying through to ‘Individ’ as well.

Long and Kroeber looked even farther into their now-deep back catalogue during the process of writing and recording ‘Individ’. “In a lot of ways making this record brought us back to making ‘Visiter’ (The Dodos’ brilliant 2008 LP), relying heavily on the movement that occurs between just two instruments, guitar and drums. From the first take of the first song we tracked, things sounded huge and that set the tone for the entire thing.”

‘Individ’ is bookended by two epically lengthy tracks, ‘Precipitation’ and ‘Pattern/Shadow’, both of which exemplify Long’s stated premise. ‘Precipitation’ introduces the album with the sonic anticipation of an impending storm before evolving into heavy percussion and thundering guitar riffs. Closing track ‘Pattern/Shadow’ makes the album’s final and most lasting impact, its distinct musical sections unified by echoes of the opening lyric “your shadow remains / I cannot resist / the mirrored escape / of your pattern”.

First single ‘Competition’ is possibly the most immediately accessible track on the album, and yet the relentless percussion and interlaced guitar parts are another example of The Dodos’ grandiose intent. Long’s echoing double-tracked vocals are intensely melodic, though his rhythmically repetitive lyrics become almost indistinguishable in the wash of guitar and percussion. Other album highlights include the gentle lull and harmonic intricacy of ‘Darkness’, the mutable time signature of ‘Goodbyes and Endings’ and the potent percussion and gritty guitar riff of ‘Retriever’.

Nothing if not complex, the music on ‘Individ’ is almost too much to take in all at once, leaving a only a shadowy impression after the first listen and subsequent ones alike. By contrast with ‘Visiter’ and ‘Carrier’, ‘Individ’ seems more cerebral then emotional, and it’s missing a strongly convincing hook to maintain the listener’s attention. But what it lacks in immediacy, it makes up for in its broad atmosphere, and perhaps the energy of live performance will allow for a more visceral effect. The Dodos will play a series of live dates in North America this winter leading into their appearance at SXSW 2015 in March.

7/10

‘Individ’, the sixth album from the Dodos, is out today on Polyvinyl Records.

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