With more than a little reverb, a sense of wide-open space, and a strong kinship with Americana, Brokeback and Black Rock is what instrumental albums should be. There is no struggle with absent vocals; these are complete compositions, finished and evocative.
Tomorrow is the third Saturday in April, which means that independent record stores across the world will face an influx of limited-edition vinyl, avid fans, and rabid audiophiles. With myriad releases hitting shelves, we’ve provided you with some of our most anticipated picks to make Saturday’s shopping (relatively) quick and painless.
Dosh: “Subtractions”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/dosh-subtractions.mp3|titles=Dosh: “Subtractions”]
Percussionist and multi-instrumentalist Martin Dosh, better known as simply Dosh, is known both for his electronic-based solo venture as well as his work with Andrew Bird, with whom he’s toured and recorded. The instrumental track is Dosh’s specialty; “Simple Exercises,” which first appeared on Dosh’s 2004 release, Pure Trash, reappeared on Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha in 2007 as “Simple X” with an addition of lyrics. In the piece below, Dosh explains what drew him to instrumental music and how a few classic, lyric-less tracks continue to inspire his own music.
The Alchemy of Instrumental Music
I think my interest in music and sound really began when i was around nine or 10 years old; that is to say, that is when I really began LISTENING to music, to the ways instruments and voices worked together, trying to separate the sounds in my mind, trying to understand which sounds were being made by which instruments, and even what the people that played the music may have looked like. I can’t recall what the first song that really captured my imagination was, but it was likely by Devo or The Cars, maybe Billy Squier. I’ve always listened to the music first and digested the vocals and lyrics later. When I first discovered Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, I found the vocals to be distracting. I couldn’t understand why they were there; they seemed like an afterthought.
Once I started playing drums, when i was 15, that was all I really heard when I would listen to a song: the drums. And I played a little bit with some friends, but I didn’t truly discover the joy of volume until I went to college two years later. I spent more time listening to music in my first two years than I spent doing anything else — usually as loud as possible. I was lucky enough to have a few friends who had massive record collections, and I listened to everything.
A Lull: “Some Love”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/03_SomeLove1.mp3|titles=A Lull: “Some Love”]
Since its formation in 2008, indie electronic quintet A Lull has expanded its lineup and grown into a much louder and more textured unit. After experimentation with a plethora of objects and instruments, the Chicago band has crafted a sonic landscape that’s truly its own. Between thumping rhythms, trance-like vocals, and layers of percussion, A Lull’s debut album, Confetti, pulsates from start to finish.
The band’s live performances are equally infectious in energy. Before Confetti‘s record-release show, two-fifths of A Lull — Nigel Dennis and Todd Miller — discussed making the album and how the music will translate live.
There is definite progression between the Ice Cream Bones EP (2009) and Confetti. What kind of growth did you experience between these releases? Or what did you feel was missing with the EP and the smaller lineup?
TM: [Ice Cream Bones] was pretty early on in the recording process, and those were kind of the first five songs that we got finished, and I think we were just trying to figure out what we sounded like. After that EP, we kept trying to figure out what we sounded like, and I think we all just kind of moved more towards a much louder sound.
ND: I think it also came from playing live together. When we wrote the EP, we hadn’t really played live that much — our first show was December of 2008, and the EP came out in May [of 2009]. But when we were recording that EP, we had the songs already written to play them live in December. We’d extend a song and make it a lot crazier on drums and sort of build on that — so it naturally happened.
Experimental instrumental quintet Tortoise played a pair of hometown shows recently, performing in front of welcoming crowds at the Empty Bottle in Chicago. The incomparable rock-dub-jazz shape-shifter garnered a “This Week’s Best Albums” tag for its 2009 release Beacons of Ancestorship (Thrill Jockey). Since then, it has released a 13-minute single (Ice Ice Gravy) and a Japan-only CD (Why Waste Time?).
As you wait for a new Tortoise full-length, check out photographer Drew Reynolds‘ captures from the performance, and then click on over and revisit guitarist Jeff Parker‘s late-2010 show with Andrew Bird right here.
Whistling, violin-toting troubadour Andrew Bird just finished a makeshift residency at Chicago’s Fourth Presbyterian Church. Bird played three successive dates with Chicago jazz fixture and Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker. It’s not the first time that the cavernous venue has played host to Bird and his classically inspired pop, and judging by the reception — all three nights sold out far in advance — it won’t be the last.
Contributing photographers Sanchez and Kitahara captured these images of the December 15 performance.