Pedro Leitao, who runs the excellent Portuguese netlabel test tube, invited me to provide a brief liner note to the new album by DOPO, For the Entrance of the Sun, which was released for free download yesterday. DOPO is a remarkable outfit, having first entered my field of listening in late 2005 with its earlier test tube set, Last Blues, to Be Read Someday (which served as the final Disquiet Downstream entry of that year). What follows is my take on the excellent new album. If it sounds of interest, get all eight tracks at monocromatica.com/netlabel:
There’s a moment about a minute and a half before the close of DOPO’s track “For the Entrance of the Sun (Pt. I)” when a bit of feedback peaks out, glistening and razor sharp. That snap breaks open the group’s droney, folksy, communal music to reveal its darker operating principle.
Electric instruments are nothing new to folk music, no more so than is the psychedelic imagery DOPO embraces. But the five-person DOPO takes its electrical charge seriously, dancing with that power. The snap in question hints at the way that gentle sounds can be found, in time, to have hidden deeper impulses.
Here are eight tracks of magical, trance-inducing music, less composition than rituals, and each one of them keeps a meditative state at bay by summoning the power of that electrical charge.
Sometimes it is literal, as on “Horses Running Towards the South,” with its serrated halo of woozily strummed guitar, and “All the Mountains Are Dancing,” which has more than its share of chord shards. Those sparks bring a certain friction to the cycling percussion, slacker rhythms and junk-pile arrangements that are DOPO’s stock in trade.
The most trenchant pieces on Entrance, though, like “17 Ways to Kill a Man” and “Time Floats by the Window,” manage to separate that electrical power from its source. They jettison the objective specificity of an individual instrument and emphasize the tonal purity of amplification. In this environment, a bit of feedback isn’t a mistake; it’s a quick flash of insight.