Dosh starts his LP with a great dance beat—a hopped-up Marley Marl—while surrounding the beat with soundscape mood music. So the rhythm is in the music without being the rhythm of the music. The drums then echo into a thousand different pieces (so rhythm is optional). No matter what sound Dosh puts into his ‘scape—machine-gun percussion, drifting hum, dreamy jazz chords, spizzes, pops, cymbals, string washes, foghorn guitar—it’s just one occurrence, and you can’t count on it hanging around. He continually creates the sense that this isn’t all there is to the music; it’s merely all we’re hearing. So he uses hip-hop and electronic dance rhythms without establishing a track as hip-hop or dance; yet, because these rhythms show up, they don’t let the music settle into an ambient or chill-out role.
Dosh creates his music on the fly, “samples his own drums, keyboards, and effects and layers them right there in front of you,” says Anticon label manager Baillie Parker. “There’s really no one like him.”
The drawback is that, when a track doesn’t have a consistent beat, or key, or harmonic direction, and you’re creating forms as you go—and none dominates, even for a moment—then you need a great sense of form; you’ve got to be a Miles Davis or a Brian Eno, able to create an organizing principle out of a trumpet blast or discover a sound sculpture in electronic hum. The self-titled Dosh album has a couple of strong cuts, but so far Dosh’s sense of form is very non-great. He reduces soundscape to moodscape, turns synth washes into dreamy, drifty clichés—too much atmosphere and too little event. It’s music for people who think wind chimes are profoundly beautiful. It lacks an active and busy population. But there’ll be moments when, while we’re watching the doe nibbling away at the leaves, some cowboy drummer’ll come whoopy-ti-yaying through. So there’s hope for this guy—and for his implicit adventure: “Let’s create an unknown world and then go wandering around in it, trying to get our bearings.”
Dosh plays the Knitting Factory September 15.