Music Reviews

The Dodos Visiter

(French Kiss) Rating - 8/10

Like the White Stripes, the Dodos wring a big sound out of only two band members. The Dodos have a vastly different approach though; one more akin to Animal Collective and its psychedelic bonfire sound. The tunes have a singalong quality and the drumming avoids the 4/4 standard for more exotic time signatures and syncopation while keeping the beats insistent. One trait they do share with both the Stripes and the Collective is a restless energy, which in this case gives Visiter an “unhinged” quality that this reviewer found infectious. It’s as if they had written a group of catchy folk songs and started playing them until the Ecstasy kicked in, at which point they became a little frenetic and disjointed. If you like the idea, as I do, of familiar tunes sent through a hall of mirrors then this is right up your alley. 

The whole thing starts out conventionally enough, with Walking, sounding as non-threatening as Aberfeldy. But on Red and Purple we get a taste of what we are in for. A Brazilian beat (think Paul Simon’s Obvious Child) joins a busy acoustic guitar supporting a vocal line that snakes its way around the chords. Suddenly, the Dodos sound unique yet still rooted to tradition. As we progress we find drummer Logan Kroeber branching out in multiple directions with singer Meric Long miraculously in perfect sync. Listening closely I realized that all these percussive flights of fancy are pounded away on a single floor tom, alternating between the skin and the rim. When I was 12 that was how I kept the beat with my band, since I only had a single snare and a pair of sticks to my name, so I appreciate Kroeber’s inventiveness and skill. There’s very little ornamentation on this album and not much is needed. Listen to how much color a single out of tune piano chord adds to Joe’s Waltz. They start simple and add sparingly, which is always a smart move.        
The real shock for me though is the duo’s inexplicable synergy. They seem completely and utterly on the same page, which wouldn’t be so unexpected if the page weren’t such a bizarre one. All the rapid shifts in tempo, time and dynamics sound completely natural and organic. How does that happen? ‘Ok, we alternate between 3/8 and 5/8 and then I’ll start screaming and then you start pounding and shift accented beats’. That’s how the marvelous Jodi comes off, and meanwhile, they really sound like they mean it. It nevers sounds calculated or contrived. They really go all in, which is what finally puts all this weird stuff across. By the time the final song, God?, rolls around, with its myriad drum patterns and beautiful feedback guitar riff, you’ve come to expect the unexpected. Still, the whole experience takes some getting used to and I must have listened to Visiter 5 or 6 times before I really got it. This is one of the few releases of 2008 that shook me out of my complacency and forced me to accept it on its own terms. Maybe it can do the same for you.