Dosh: Tommy (Anticon)

Instrumental music is all about ambiance. Without words, meaning has to be built through sound alone. The large number of choices available through technology creates a challenge: How does one choose wisely and not overload the songs?

Dosh, aka Martin Dosh, would answer: through consistent consideration of ambiance.

Dosh is a master of construction, using live musicians, samples and loops. On Tommy, his fifth full-length, the overall ambience is contemplative and cool, and each song has a clear focus. Instruments include standard drums, Bulgarian tambura, saxophone, glockenspiel, synths and pedal steel from Paul Niehaus. When there are vocals, they're there as another sound and element-building ambiance. Even the guest vocals from Andrew Bird on "Number 41" and "Nevermet" are less about Bird's surreal storytelling ability and more about the facets of his voice. On "Number 41," for example, Bird's smooth vibrato hovers between a fuzzy beat and crisp pedal steel.

Tommy is complex but clean, experimental but listenable; it rests more in the realm of jazz than electronic or rock, although the last track, "Gare de Lyon," breaks into a wall of guitar noise at minute seven. But before the noise comes the calm, like on the ironically titled "Loud," where the glockenspiel makes an appearance alongside piano and muted drums. It's a productive calm, energetic and thoughtful, the result of expert musical craftsmanship.

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