The Dodos Prove Less Is More

June 10th, 2011

The Dodos – The Bowery Ballroom – June 9, 2011

What’s made the Dodos compelling since the very beginning of the band’s career is Meric Long’s unusual rhythmic strumming and polyrhythmic percussion arrangements. Eventually the Dodos came together as a duo when Logan Kroeber joined Meric, having met through a mutual friend in San Francisco. From a mostly metal background, Logan brought a contemporary rock technique to these traditional foundations. What begins to sound suspiciously like math really comes from a recombination of older-than-classic elements. The drum, after the human voice, was surely the first instrument, and the ways to play it are as varied as the number of cultures on the planet.

The Dodos started from a difficult place, relying on just an acoustic guitar and a minimal drum kit, a few floor toms and a tambourine taped to Logan’s foot in place of a kick drum. But the lack of cymbals and guitar effects forced them to push their songs from the outset, and they’ve continued to expand on this basic premise on their latest album, No Color. Last night, they played recognizable tracks like “Sleep” and “Don’t Try and Hide It” to the Bowery Ballroom crowd.

With Meric hunched over his guitar, not content with the group’s own formula, the Dodos expanded on the track melodies into ever-faster arrangements, culminating in sheer experimental feedback. Meric has exclusively played an electric guitar on this tour and is equally proficient at complex finger picking and pounding out the rhythm. The drums are front and center, like their philosophy. When combined with the dynamics of the guitar and Meric’s range of vocals, from whispering to yelling, against booming tom drums, the sound is surprisingly modern. Proving that less is more, or at least in the right hands, it leads to entirely new and interesting directions. —Jason Dean

(See the Dodos play Music Hall of Williamsburg tonight.)