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Martin Dosh's six-year-old stepson answers the door to the musician's south Minneapolis home as if we were dear friends in a past life. "Want to see my room?" he asks before we're even introduced. "I have at least 125 toys." He plops on his bed, pausing long enough to let me take in his stash before throwing his arms up and announcing, "I want to be the greatest kid in the world!" Later, on the front porch, he shows off his skills at stabbing a pumpkin. "Is that for cutting?" I ask him, referring to what is, after all, part of a pumpkin-carving kit. He stares at me and blinks repeatedly, his long eyelashes almost hitting his cheeks. "No," he says, a smile creeping across his face. "It's to poop with." Duh.
In less than two years, Dosh fell googly-eyed in love, got married, and became a parent to six-year-old Tadhg and five-month-old Naoise. "They're Celtic names," he says, as Johnny Cash's "Danny Boy," the most sorrowful version of the song ever recorded, takes over the toy-filled living room. Dosh chronicled that two-year period of his life on his latest instrumental album, Pure Trash (Anticon).
Creating a concept album without lyrics is like exercising without moving. Nobody knows what you're doing unless you tell them you're doing clenches. But if you examine the album sleeve while listening closely to Dosh's sound collages, a narrative does emerge. Dosh's wife Erin contributed the CD's childlike illustrations after listening to the album's 12 tunes, which see the chemistry of a new romance bubble into a nuclear family. The first song, "Simple Exercises," opens with sweet lullabylike keyboards and Erin saying, "Being pregnant and having a baby is not weird," before fuzzed-out drumbeats and furious xylophones skitter like the aftershocks of a major electrical mishap.
"Bring the Happiness" follows the equally explicitly titled "I Think I'm Getting Married," which starts with a somber acoustic guitar and segues into looped drumbeats and keyboards that wail like a foghorn. While there's a tinge of melancholy to the piece, it's ultimately an unregretful goodbye to a life once lived. "I think this is a happy record," Dosh says. "Perhaps people who aren't really happy won't like it."
Dosh wrote "Married" six weeks after he and Erin started dating. He recorded it, along with some other tunes, and gave it to her on a mix tape before they had discussed marriage as a possibility. He didn't propose to her until a few months later, but gave her the song as a way of telling her he already knew they'd spend their lives together. He walks into the bedroom where Erin's feeding Naoise and asks her what she thought when she first saw the song title. "Oh, I totally knew we were going to get married," she says. "So I was totally happy."
Most of the songs were written in Dosh's basement in the twilight hours when Tadhg was fast asleep. He collaborated with various likeminded musicians, including Jel and Odd Nosdam, who added drum breaks, and his Fog bandmate, Andrew Broder, who played trumpet and guitar. Mostly, though, all the songs came from Dosh trying to create the sound of anticipation, to re-create the feeling he experienced during the months he was waiting for his son to be born. "I was stressing out about getting the record done on time, but it really isn't anything compared to having a little baby in your arms," he says. "Having a son who I love and care for, who is so pure and joyful, puts everything into perspective."
The final sounds he recorded for Pure Trash were Naoise's cries, heard on the closing track, "The Last Plan." The song also serves as the final episode to his fall-in-love, get-married, have-baby trilogy. "It was sort of 'Team Dosh,'" he says of the family effort. "Part of me feels really dorky about calling it Dosh. But part of me sort of feels like I'm speaking for all Doshes, like my grandfather and my dad. It's where all these genes ended up at some point. I hope when Naoise grows up he doesn't think I'm a dork." Naoise is sound asleep on the couch, oblivious to Johnny Cash's "The Man Comes Around" as his brother, who's vying for the title of the greatest kid in the world, traces an imaginary racetrack around his bundled body with matchbox cars, over and over, in a circle that will be unbroken.