Dos y Dos
Label: Original Recordings Group
Technical proficiency isn’t everything. While it is clearly welcome and recommended for musicianship, it’s not always the backbone of an artist’s talents. The same can be said for the opposite. The members of Dos, the two-person electric bass jam band (the first and last recorded instance of that phrase in Recorded History) are clearly superior on their instruments – the ease with which they trade off licks and sonic patterns is astonishing. Technically sound, Kira Roessler and Mike Watt’s 25 year personal project has seen them band together, bond together, and break apart while releasing only four albums. Their latest, Dos y Dos, is their first in 15 years. Has their work aged gracefully, or is it as youthful and rebellious as its age-sake?
Dos is a difficult band to grasp – their entire conceit is built on simplicity: two people playing electric basses with one another. The rigidity of the technology is admirable, and on some points on Dos y Dos it actually functions on subliminal levels, such as a buoy for Roessler’s intentionally flat vocals on “Make Her Me.” “Uncle Mike” is a bouncy, kinetic track that is simultaneously playful and exemplary of the deeper abilities and connection that Roessler and Watt have. Ultimately, though, when artists restrain themselves, they have to be able to overcome that restraint in order to achieve their goal. Does Dos? Si y no.
Give credit to their strength and ear for arrangement – the songs with vocals are timed to intermingle with the instrumental pieces to break up the monotony. Right when the bass plucking might be too nerve-straining, Roessler will come in or they will employ something equally as bizarre, like the sounds of a dog barking and growling in “Number Eight” (their love for dogs apparent from the video for this track and the album cover). Another of Dos’ strengths is to limit their indulgence. Most tracks clock in under three minutes (perhaps a holdover from Watt’s punk roots?) and the whole album breezes by in just under 40. The real standout is the gorgeous, sweet “No Me Queda Mas.” Sung by Roessler in a pretty lilt that takes precedence for the first time on the record, she serenades a former lover with feelings of compassion and care. It’s a tender moment, perhaps tipping a bit more emotion than she expected, which makes for excitingly explorable lyricism. It’s a cute little song, and I mean that as un-dismissively as I can muster.
Dos y Dos is a great for having a think, but it ultimately lacks any major distinction. While the variations on themes and musicianship are worthy, they stick out more as distractions and do little to keep the album and the listener’s focus from drifting. It’s meant to be atmospheric, and achieves this to some extent, but more often than not it just fills the space it means to take over.
by Rafael Gaitan
Key Tracks: Number Eight