The Sample Room

Sarah Askari

The Lost Take

"Okay—I'm gonna pass the mic around; you get one syllable each," says the man with headphones split over his hat. Martin Dosh is bringing his laid-back fans at the Triple Rock into his game of electronic round-robin, finally adding human voices to a set of songs that have avoided lyrics as assiduously as they've shunned traditional melody.

I am already confused enough by what is happening onstage (where are the other musicians? Why is that Dosh guy secured behind a fort of drums, keyboards, and some sort of odd pegboard?) and I pray the mic doesn't come my way. I can't think on my feet, and suspect all the decent one-syllable sounds will have been used by the time it gets to me anyway. I can't improvise. I would be bad at being Dosh.

Dosh's new CD, The Lost Take, is a gentle sequence of soft, electronic meanderings and light, quick drumbeats. The songs remind me of the optimistic, jazzy music that Sesame Street used as a backdrop for time-lapse movies showing the ebb and flow of traffic at a city intersection. They start out with a single, sustained piano chord or a jerky, disjointed series of six short notes, and then become exponentially busier as fast little xylophone and sax samples join up, the better to mark the groove and bustle of rush hour.

During Friday night's set, Dosh enjoys occasional accompaniment from the violin of Andrew Bird, and the members of Fat Kid Wednesdays pitch in with double bass, sax, and drums. But he doesn't really need the help; for the most part, Dosh is a solo act. Onstage, he lays down a line of percussion or piano, and uses his sequencer to loop it. While that plays, he creates another sonic sample using one of the instruments that surround him. The new sample is added to the loop, and he moves on to making the next layer. When things get going, the stunt is not unlike plate spinning, as each additional sound demands an increase in dexterity.

After the first person yells "Woo!" into the mic that night, Dosh adds it to the mix. By the time the song is over, it will be joined by "Hee," "Yow," and a noise that's halfway between a burp and a growl. (The mic never even gets remotely near me). Sequenced together, the voices weave into the warm tones and brushed beats Dosh has created. When it ends, the crowd erupts with hoots and handclaps, glad to have sat in with Dosh's one-man band.

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