Visiter reveals its hidden depths slowly.
Jaime Gill 2008
Lo fi is often a convenient cover for lo ability, but not where The Dodos are concerned. Their sound may be stripped down and bare, with only a few adornments to the basic mix of vocal, guitar and drum, but the San Francisco duo more than compensate by deft musical ability and by stuffing the songs full of rhythmic surprises and melodic jolts. Familiar on the surface, Visiter reveals its hidden depths slowly.
It begins with a red herring, the surprisingly conventional indie of The Walking, built on pastoral strum and sugary female backing vocal. It's the surge of tribal drums introducing second track, Red And Purple, which hints at where the Dodos are truly heading, Logan Kroeber's unconventional percussion fusing with Meric Long's agile, feverish strumming and sweetly awkward voice to create something unpredictable, fidgety and oddly charming.
There are reference points here if you look for them. The addictive Fools shares a shambling melancholia with Midlake, its lazily unspooling structure shaken up by nervy jangles of FX guitar, while the expansive campfire psychedelia of Season sounds like MGMT might shorn of the synths and the high gloss Dave Fridmann production. But The Dodos are mostly enjoyable for the unlikely places their songs go, for the exotic flesh they put on straightforward skeletons.
So the seven minute Joe's Waltz begins uncannily like Coldplay's Sparks before, guided by Kroeber's tom toms, it mutates into a swaggering sea shanty and finally ends up as a gritted-teeth blues jam. Jodi is even odder, with its manic rhythmic shifts and dark lyrical hints at death and obsession, though the loveliness of Long's melody means it never quite falls apart as the later Paint The Rust does.
At fourteen tracks Visiter is overlong, and there seems little reason songs like the brief, lurching It's That Time Again couldn't have been tossed overboard. But it's also a bracing reminder that even the most basic ingredients can make something new with a little imagination.