Capitalizing on the success of 2011’s Drawn Onward and a tour which has seen them reach a slew of new markets around the country, Boston’s Dopapod sprinted back to the studio to record of new collection, Redivider. Nothing about the finished product, however, indicates haste: this collection is intricate, developed, dynamic, and downright danceable. It is a fine snapshot of a band comfortable in their shoes, and most certainly on the move.
It is easy to stick this on the shelf as jamtronica, but doing so would be an injustice. The Dopapod sound is complex: elements of jazz, funk, and fusion, sometimes aggressive and almost always progressive. This is a band that is elusive, and pinning them down is nearly impossible. The songs are in most cases comprised of movements and passages, never settling for too long in the same spot. Nor are they highlighted in many cases by solos. At any one point in time when one of the musicians is steering the ship it is subtle and fleeting—that even though each is masterfully accomplished in his own right, Dopapod breathes when they move as one—which is to say the majority of the time.
Redivider kicks off with the fifty-second intro ‘Build and Android’, a sustained grinding dissonance that soon gives way to the sounds of a rustic, unflustered melodica. Guitarist Rob Compa suddenly interrupts with assertive zest, we are in the middle of ‘Braindead’ and off and running. ‘Braindead’ stands as the most traditional pieces on the album in regards to format, as the band consciously tackled lyrics on this one (the first time in their three albums.) This tune is essential to understanding this album: weird, sometimes discomforting, but always finishing in danceable embrace. It begins verse chorus two times over before breaking down to some mellow organ on the part of keyboardist Eli Winderman atop a sultry bassline by bassist Chuck Jones. After a blistering take by Compa over the rising crescendo from the rhythm, their fantastic interplay soars over a lo-fi grind that carries it in fine, climaxing style to the finish.
The ensuing ‘Bubblebrain’ is another early highlight. This one opens with a spacey, meditative guitar melody before drummer Neil Evans enters in tribal fashion. There are echoes of moog, a punch of the bass and suddenly what sounds like the middle of a futurist robot rave. After toying here for a bit, things break down with some nifty interplay between the guitar and moog, some odd time signatures and surprisingly, a well-placed acoustic guitar interlude. Then it’s back to robot rock in which the electric mimics the acoustic before easing down for some pristine oscillating from Winderman on the Moog. Finally, the band lands into a joyous payoff on a theme which has hints of Auld Lang Syne and will most definitely leave the listener celebrating.
‘Trapper Keeper’ is infectious psychedelic funk with a Pantera-esque bridge highlighted by a punchy bass on the part of Jones and a steady backbeat by Evans. ‘My Elephant Vs. Your Elephant’ is the most atmospheric, gorgeous song of the record: a peaceful, unrushed melody that mesmerizes, growing more layered and textured until it explodes, finally breaking down to sonic freakout emphasized with exceptionally sinuous playing by Compa.
Next up is ‘Blast’, more sexy funk lifted up by fat bass and a song full of twists and turns, hardly staying in one place. Winderman’s synthesizer melodies make this one shine, sometimes loud and dominant and others quiet and complimentary.
The highlight of Redivider is the otherworldy ‘Volume #3, Number 86’. With Winderman leading the way on piano pocket synthesizer, its beginning is pure Nintendo, playful and downright funky. The lyrics stand up strongly, including a brief reggae-ish lilt, and a return to more trippy, descending arcade madness. The second part of this one is a positively brilliant dance movement, upbeat and warm, a ‘Triple Wide’ with teeth.
Then there’s the heavy ‘STADA’, which feels like Dopapod stepping on the listener with a size seventeen boot, highlighted by some devastating fills by Evans before Compa takes a blistering, soulful solo that it’s easy to forget he is capable of amidst his normally controlled role. And there’s the snarl and punk of ‘Give it a Name’, a catchy, rebellious offering that’s sounds somewhat a crossbreed of Offspring and the Presidents of the United States. It is also another successful effort vocally and further proof that this is not just an instrumental band.
‘Weird Charlie’ closes the book on this one, including a return to the melodic that bookends the heart of the album and gestures to Dopapod’s love of palindromes. This one is both tight and tense yet incredibly loose, and moves through several passages that offer evidence that although the Dopapod sound may sound ahead of its time, it is rooted in a rich musical tapestry of the past.
Redivider is, at its heart, a dance record. Sometimes it takes a bit to get there, but then again, that’s probably a good thing for the A.D.D. generation. Although its sound can be technical and technological, make no mistake: these are four musicians playing their hearts out, and doing it tremendously. While parts of the album can feel alienating, Dopapod is always there at the end with a warm embrace, and the reward is enormous at many instances on many levels. Keep up if you can.