Martin Dosh returns to innocence with his debut album
Thursday 30 May @ 12:45:52
by M. Lee
Cynicism was ever-so-cool in my high school clique. We were all so eager to grow past our recently deceased childhoods that anything smacking of innocence usually earned a single raised eyebrow and some pat ironic quip or another. We learned how to do things like smoke (look at me, I’m soooo much older now, as if by magic!), how to drink espresso (look at me, omigod, I’m soooo addicted!), experiment with grim ideas (“Hell is other people”? omigod, that’s soooo deep!), and, basically, how to pretend that our younger days could have been nothing but dreadfully moronic.
Talking with musical multitasker Martin Dosh transported me back to the days before that adolescent attitude really kicked in — when I could still do and feel and say the simplest stuff.
“I like the whole thing,” Martin Dosh says of his debut album, simply titled Dosh. He hovers over his black coffee on a bright Tuesday afternoon at the Spyhouse Cafe, ruffling his moppish haircut as he speaks. Twisty red and black Dali-esque art looks down at our table through the cigarette smoke trailing in from the other patrons, contrasting this man and his quietly sunny and raw outlook on his art.
Basic innocence, or a return to it, seems to be the album’s theme, and its effect is pretty touching. Many of the tracks combine business-meaning rhythm structures with grave keyboards, while threads of baby-doll melodies wind throughout. Like many other cinematic-sounding local instrumental acts, Dosh leaves space for a listener to stretch out and feel the music on her own terms, rather than beating away at a big important message.
“I’m trying to provoke some sort of emotional response basically, because [when] you don’t have any words all you’re doing is trying to create a mood,” he says. “I didn’t spend a lot of time agonizing over it not being perfect, because to me it’s sort of about the imperfections … it’s more immediate … I don’t know why, but [that] speaks to me.”
Dosh’s un-slick approach can be heard in the album’s easygoing sweetness, as much the result of its unpolished sonic combinations as it is about the nature of the sounds themselves. The rough-around-the-edges texture inspires a feeling of loose emotion, creating a living mood in each song. It’s far from simple, musically, but the attitude behind his methods makes for an intimate and even childlike sound.
Dosh credits the kids he works with as prime inspirations for this aspect of his work. A music teacher at a Minneapolis elementary school, Dosh can borrow both his young students’ optimism and, at times, even their voices or playing skills.
“‘My Favorite Color is Red’ is a really fun one because one of my drum students did a little vocal thing on there . . . [the title] was the first thing he said, so that was the name of the song. He’s like the biggest rock star in school now.” He laughs, not a little proudly.
Though Dosh freely numbers friends and collaborators like Andrew Broder of Fog, Dave King of Happy Apple and Mary Everest among his most instrumental influences, playing with them and many others on the local scene in acts such as Fog, iffy, and Lateduster, he felt he needed to step up front and put out his own collection.
“I need[ed] to put out a record because I have something to say,” Dosh explains. “I don’t really have words to say it, but I do have something to show the world. If someone came up to me and was like, ‘What’s your philosophy?’ I’d just give them this CD and say, ‘This is what it is.’ I don’t think I can explain it any other way.”
But the spastic espresso-drinking 16-year-old in me presses for something profound. What about that philosophy?
“Hope. I work with kids all the time and though the past winter I saw rampant poverty,” he says soberly. “To me that’s what it is, you know—you see kids grow up with their idealism and they’re just so glad to be alive when the world is really %@!#$&ed up and bad things happen. I think if I didn’t have hope that it could get better in some way, I couldn’t have made the album.
“That sounds like some kind of Miss America speech,” he laughs.
While the sweet melodic touches on Dosh don’t feel like beauty queen dreams, their whimsical air does inspire a look back to childhood freedom: to play as you please. You might just want to go look for bugs or make lotsa noise on a piano, whether or not it sounded good. And Dosh would probably advocate it.
“Technique is very important,” he says, “but sometimes you need to think about things in a creative way, too. I’m sure there’s someone in Europe that’s taking the top off a Rhodes and banging on it, but as far as I know, I invented it, and it sounds cool.”
Look at me, omigod, I’m soooo refreshed.