With the flash and efficiency of digital song-making technologies, it can be easy to lose sight of the merits of that which is analog. Martin Dosh, then, has become something of an accidental preservationist, keeping instruments like Rhodes keyboards and an ancient Korg EX 800 sequencer alive by using them in his innovative solo works and collaborations with the likes of Andrew Bird and Bonnie “Prince” Billy.
Over the years, he’s graciously given over rich compositions like “First Impossible” (which became Andrew Bird’s “Not a Robot but a Ghost”) to collaboration, but with Milk Money, his latest solo release, Dosh decided to let his arrangements stand on their own. Blending elements of hip hop, jazz drumming, vocal samples and electronic production, he builds a variety of warm soundscapes. His mixes of piano, percussion, vocals and more are broad, room-filling compositions, created by running the elements of each track through guitar amplifiers simultaneously, creating a “re-amp” effect that allows each song to breathe. The result is a collection of open pieces, like the wonder-tinged "Kisses," that invite the listener to step inside.
Looping pedals are integral to Dosh’s music, and he uses them here to great effect. With a stage set-up that looks like a fort erected by a kid with only musical instruments for building materials — boxed in on all sides by keyboards, drums and complicated boards of knobs begging to be jiggled — Dosh uses loops to construct his soundscapes solo. The resulting complexity and breadth of his songs is most evident on the record’s closing track, a nearly 25-minute number Dosh composed for a duo performance with Wilco’s Glenn Kotche at the request of the Walker Arts Center in Dosh’s hometown of Minneapolis. Beginning with a single pinging note on the Rhodes, it winds through many cycles, eventually blossoming into an ebullient flurry of sound.
Milk Money is the recording of a vital mind alive with the possibility of what it can create. It brims with a warmth that can’t be digitized. It’s the satisfying, immediate thwack of drumstick again drumhead, the visceral pleasure of a grown-up boy at play inside a musical fort.