Paul has been releasing a steady stream of one-off pieces that have not made an album appearance. They’ve all been extremely strong, and this makes me wonder how large his pipeline of unreleased material is. Based on the super high quality of these works, I am going to play catch-up and put down some thoughts on the three most recent releases (that when taken together would make a nice album of unreleased gems). If you have even a passing interest in all things Dolden, I can wholeheartedly recommend visiting his Bandcamp page where you can find these, and many more of his incredibly epic and heroic multi-track sound extravaganzas. Additionally, I have published a couple of write-ups on earlier records on this very site. Feel free to check in on those for a review, you can find them here and here.
“The Dance of the Firing Synapse” clocks in at 20 minutes and is prime Dolden, i.e. aggressive, relentlessly LOUD, and in. yo. FACE!!! It has all the hallmarks of his sound, things like Balinese sounding percussion, ridiculously hard to count rhythms, face-melting passages of countlessly layered, metal-tinged guitars (or maybe those are something else, hard to tell), very complex drum pyrotechnics, moments of sick note Saxophones and the odd choral accents. All these things come together in a tightly produced, microtonal package that is just a constant stream of detail after detail. In a word, astounding! After many listens, new things manifest themselves that I can swear I’ve never heard before. I’ve heard a few comments from people saying the piece provokes headaches, or it precipitates sensory overload resulting in fatigue, etc. While I’ll never challenge these views, instead I’ll just smile to myself and think Dolden may have reached a stage of “mission accomplished”. He achieved that coveted point on the bell curve where the synapses just say, “fuck it, I’m done”. Bravo!
The other two releases (“Marsyas’ Melodies” and “Who Has the Strangest Melodies?”) has Dolden continuing to move forward with a more “modern classical” approach with less noise blasts and less massed layers of sound assaults. This is not to say that those qualities (and they are indeed qualities) are not present, just utilized in a more subtle manner within the context of the piece, instead of THE piece itself.
“Marsyas’ Melodies” starts quietly and slowly builds into a series of climaxes. Each build and release have its own distinctive personality due to the varied instruments used and, per the liner notes, ancient Arab and Greek tuning systems are employed. About midway through the piece, there is a short but quite beautiful cello solo which opens the door for more build-ups (this time louder with more multi tracked acoustic instruments including what sounds like a full choir and oddly tuned percussion…a Dolden hallmark). Even though the structure of this work sounds simple, the combinations of sound sources paired with his typical attention to the “little details” like the separation between sounds and total mastery of dynamics make this piece one of my favorites.
“Who Has the Strangest Melodies” shares many of the same compositional qualities but this time, I hear a little bit of a Charles Ives vibe. Brass instruments seem to be the prevalent focus on this piece and the structure seems more complex than “Marsyas’ Melodies”. Once again, the melodies are micro-tonal which of course throws the listener off balance until the mind “accepts” it but, unlike the former, there is a heavy rhythmic presence played mostly on the trap kit. Adding to the disorientation, the rhythms are certainly not your standard 4/4 and…if I’m understanding things properly, the overlayed melodies are speed corrected to fit the off-kilter rhythms.
I should know by now that the unusual is the usual when it comes to Dolden music. These three pieces, if you were to take them as an album-length whole provide an excellent real-time sound portrait of where the composer seems to be presently. Not only are his works getting more detailed and refined musically as time goes by, but technologically speaking…the current state of the sound recording is stretched to the extremes which yields a stunning aural experience, especially through headphones. As I alluded to at the beginning of this write-up, every new release that drops is an event that is certainly not taken lightly by this listener and, if the firehose is active, I’ll be there.