Martin Dosh is frequently lumped in among the rest of the Anticon stable, name-checked along with Odd Nosdam and other sample-centric artists who share the label’s aesthetic. In some ways, this makes sense. After all, his method fits in with this aesthetic — no matter how hard Dosh tries to sound like a full band, we’re always aware he is the mastermind behind the rotating cast of guest musicians, and ultimately it’s the cut-and-paste style of composition that shines through more than the instrumentation itself. But though the form is similar, Dosh’s style has always been a few steps removed from the white-boy hip-hop experimentalism of many of Anticon’s artists.
For the best comparison, we should look outside his group of labelmates to Kieran Hebden. On Wolves and Wishes, his fourth studio album, Dosh shares the same melodic brightness and sense of freewheeling experimentation that Hedben showed in his recent collaboration with jazz drummer Steve Reid. Because Dosh is first a drummer, these songs are built from the ground up, with the percussion dictating the roles of the other instruments, as is the case with the Hebden/Reid collaboration. But Dosh doesn’t share the propensity for glitch-heavy laptop manipulation that Hebden is prone to exhibit, which makes his songs feel much more like fully fledged compositions.
Wolves and Wishes features an astonishing number of guest musicians. Along with touring mate Andrew Bird, Dosh roped in Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Fog’s Andrew Broder and Mark Erickson, labelmate Odd Nosdam, and Minneapolis group Dark Dark Dark, among others. Still, this always feels like a solo outing, because the skills of the guests are always put to use in the service of the song. Bird’s violin provides the perfect flourishes to the xylophone/drum-based opener, “Don’t Wait for the Needle to Drop,” which is followed immediately by Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s wordless looped vocals in the chilling “Bury the Ghost.”
Stand-out track “Wolves” opens with a wash of guitar drone courtesy of Fog/Andrew Bird collaborator Jeremy Ylvisaker, which is underpinned with Mike Lewis’ dizzying sax lines. For “The Magic Stick,” Dosh recruited fellow percussionist David King of the Bad Plus to trade beats with him underneath dreamlike guitar and piano melodies. And album closer “Capture the Flag” ties everything together with a repeating jam that utilizes most of the instruments (and musicians) found elsewhere on the album.
On this effort, Dosh has firmly established his reputation as a solid solo artist, distancing himself at last from his previous moniker of “that guy who tours with Andrew Bird.” He is a musician who knows his strengths and weaknesses, and on this record he plays to his strengths while letting other musicians fill in the gaps. More often than not, to stunning effect.