New Brookland Tavern Presents:
DUSTIN WONG (of Ponytail & Ecstatic Sunshine)
122 State St.
West Columbia, SC, 29169
When it came time for the Dodos to begin writing their fifth LP, Carrier, singer/guitarist Meric Long wanted to start over.
The uncertainty of the band's trajectory as well as the passing of guitarist Chris Reimer brought about a reassessment of things within the band, and in particular Long's songwriting.
In need of a different vantage point, Long began writing words before music for the first time, enveloping himself in silence rather than sound.
When it came time to set these lyrics to music, Long started writing with only his electric guitar in hand — another first. The focus on this instrument was due in large part to the time Long spent with Reimer, the guitarist for Women who had joined Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber to become the third member of the Dodos throughout 2011 before unexpectedly passing away early the following year.
"Chris was a huge influence on the way I think about guitar, songwriting, and music in general," reveals Long. "Seeing how he could transform and shape sound with an electric guitar inspired me to explore more tones and use those tones to begin writing a song."
And so, when he began to formulate the tracks that would ultimately comprise Carrier, Long employed two principles he inherited from Reimer: patience to let a song develop and a judgment-free enthusiasm for sound.
To this end, Long and Kroeber decided to record in their hometown of San Francisco for the first time, allowing for less time constraints and a more pressure-free experience than past out-of-state sessions had afforded.
Although John Vanderslice's Tiny Telephone studio was initially selected for its analog-friendly set-up, the duo were happy to find themselves working within a supportive community of like-minded musicians that included engineers Jay and Ian Pellicci, both of whom assisted in the production of Carrier, as well as the Magik Magik Orchestra, which appears on several tracks.
As a result, the album the Dodos crafted is refreshingly sincere: no computers, no gimmicks — just eleven songs that are beautiful and solid and true and honest.
"Substance" effortlessly embodies all of these traits, from the crisp drumming that announces its arrival to the bright guitar lines that weave in and out before eventually joining forces with a triumphant burst of trumpets.
"Confidence" begins like a calm before the storm, its strong vocals over gentle guitar and drums soon erupting into a positively epic display of guitar riffs and hypnotizing percussion.
The record's second side is anchored by "The Current," on which an angular guitar tone loops over a chugging guitar rhythm to satisfying effect as Long declares in a moment of catharsis, "If this love comes unto me / I'm with it / I'm with it."
Much too soon, Carrier ends with "The Ocean" — though Long and Kroeber view the track less as a conclusion and more of a "to be continued" into this album's follow-up, which they have already begun working on.
For a band briefly in flux, it's clear now that the Dodos' outlook on the future has never looked more certain.
DUSTIN WONG (of Ponytail & Ecstatic Sunshine)
Dustin Wong, like many of us, dove into the world of music and art as an unhappy youth looking to rebel against certain ideals and "absolute truths" that contrasted his own beliefs. A twisting path of punk discovery and a growing respect for sonic visionaries like Jimi Hendrix, Brian Wilson, John Fahey, and Brian Eno led Dustin to further pursue his muse. He eventually wound up at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he met and co-founded the critically acclaimed band Ponytail. In addition to his film studies, Dustin was also a founding member of Ecstatic Sunshine, whose music hinted more at the direction he would eventually take in this his solo debut.
On August 18th 2009 the proposition of playing a solo show (August 18th, whose numerical meaning has since taken on a special meaning to Dustin as "a gleam of time between two eternities") was set before him by a friend. Dustin didn't have any material to perform, and had never before performed solo. Excited by the proposition, he sat down and started writing what would become the first 15 minutes of Infinite Love. Taking inspiration from something John Fahey once said, "I was playing guitar but I heard an orchestra in my head. So I was really composing for a full orchestra", Dustin was deeply moved and inspired by this way of thinking about the creative process. It had a profound effect on his working with one instrument on many melodic and literal layers as well as emotional ones. Working with a simple assembly of pedals: an octave, distortion, loop, envelope filter, and a couple of delays, Dustin began to take this idea and make it his own.
In most cases his compositions start with a simple repeating melody. Dustin slowly fills the space between each note with layered and looped guitar phrases, and continues to build on this pattern until his "orchestra" fully blooms. While the textures vary greatly, the sound never becomes a cacophony, but rather a delicate web-like base to suspend his various melodic lines from. The looped layers are then further manipulated via the pedals to have an evolving set of meter and timbres for the aural narrative. The only instrument apart from guitar is a sparingly used drum machine.