Part of Sep 2011 by

The Dodos Play Austin Tonight

No one can do a rimshot as well as the Dodos’ drummer, Logan Kroeber; however, if you would have told me five years ago that my favorite band from 2008 – 2011 would build songs upon complex rhythmic structures, some comprised almost solely of rimshots, I would have called you a damn liar. The Dodos are that band. I apologize for calling you a liar.

Originally formed in 2006 as Dodobird by Meric Long, the Dodos slightly altered their moniker when Long was joined by drummer, Logan Kroeber. The rhythmically obtuse duo hailing from San Francisco, self-released their debut album–Beware of the Maniacs–in 2006.
Like most fans of the Dodos it was their second LP–2008’s mighty Visiter (Frenchkiss)–that I encountered first. (It is worth noting that it was a promo copy that I randomly received in the mail several weeks prior to its official release.) Instantly convincing me of the Dodos’ genius (a word I do not use lightly), Visiter plays like an absurdly enrapturing mash-up of prog rock, Americana, pop music, post-punk, non-Western and African music. When combined by the Dodos, the various traditions of music are barely recognizable; as if the musical polyglots have taken all of their influences and placed them in a juicer, creating something with a totally unique color and flavor.

I really wish I knew more about polyrhythms so that I could discuss the Dodo’s penchant for them in some form of intelligent detail. Sure, I can recognize the presence of conflicting rhythmic structures, just as my ears know when time signatures are not simple, but that is as far as I can get with that subject. For all I know, the Dodos toy with irrational rhythms as well, but that musical concept is light years beyond my comprehension.

Visiter provided the sole [and soul] soundtrack of my life for a few weeks straight. Then came the Dodos performance at Emo’s during South by Southwest 2008 a few days prior to Visiter’s official release. To quote my own blog post about their performance: “The sheer deluge of drums (man, their drummer–Logan Kroeber–is outstanding! He is an unstoppable machine!) makes them sound like an entire marching band on a potently dangerous cocktail of speed and crack. When paired with Meric Long’s unique guitar-stylings–well, I can’t say that I’ve ever heard anything like them before. Visiter is an amazing listen in its own right, but witnessing the songs live is an otherworldly experience.”

Post-SXSW, I maintained the all-Visiter-all-of-the-time binge. I never tired of it. Yes, I was obsessed. But I eventually recognized that I needed new music nonetheless. What was my next purchase? You guessed it! Beware of the Maniacs. Soon my iPod was randomly shuffling a playlist consisting only of Beware of the Maniacs and Visiter… Eventually, I discovered other albums that would periodically distract me from the Dodos; but as the Dodos released new material, my obsession would snap back into full effect.

For their third full-length, 2009’s Time to Die (Frenchkiss), Long and Kroeber enlisted vibraphonist Keaton Snyder and producer Phil Ek. No longer a duo, the Dodos were obviously exploring a fuller sound. Oddly, the additional layers of instrumentation seem to dull the complexity of their music.

Next, on No Color (Frenchkiss), the Dodos reunited with John Askew, the producer of their first two LPs. Long and Kroeber recruited Neko Case as a supporting vocalist, otherwise No Color sees the Dodos in a back to basics return to the sound of Beware of the Maniacs and Visiter. Not that there is anything wrong with Time to Die, but Askew’s return to the fold is certainly a welcome one.

As I have argued relentlessly over the last two plus years with naysaying friends: the Dodos are not derivative, they sound absolutely nothing like Animal Collective or anyone else to whom you attempt to compare them. I cannot claim that the Dodos sound will appeal to everyone, but I certainly think they are worth giving a listen. If you have an opportunity to check out their live performance–such as when the Dodos come to Antone’s (Austin, TX) on September 2nd–they are not to be missed.


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