The bass player in music today is a much maligned vocation. Despite being arguably the most important part of the average band, even in this post-Flea and Les Claypool world of crossover bass pyrotechnics, bassists are the first to be buried in a mix or criticized for playing too loudly. While this is a most ignominious eventuality, my sympathy is not without its limits. In this deconstructionist world and soft economy, two (wo)man units claiming band status (erroneously, as they are of course duos) are a dime a dozen and the bassist is almost always the first to be shed in that offing. I am all for bass reparations, but the danger of going too far in the opposite direction is always the SVT in the room. Which brings us somewhat neatly to dos.
For the uninitiated, dos is a duo comprised solely of bassists. Even speaking as a low-end practitioner, I can see how that eventuality could be the reddest of flags for even the most discriminating of music fans. Such ambivalence is not without precedent, as for the most part dual electric bass instrumentation is a true horror show, rightfully relegated to trade shows and masturbatory YouTube jackassery. Dos are luckier than most, as the duo can luxuriate in the cachet of having Kira Roessler and Mike Watt in its ranks. In addition to sporting formidable four-string skills, the two are a former first couple of LA Punk Rock™, having served (separately) in the ranks of bands named Black Flag, Minutemen, Twisted Roots, and The Stooges, to name but a few.
The dos players are no strangers to a conventional band structure, but in recent years both parties have stretched out in more improvisational directions. Watt has been a part of a number of West Coast improv collectives for a number of years, such as Banyan, and he has most recently expanding his horizons Eastward to include Right Coast collectives Floored By Four and Brother’s Sister’s Daughter (both with Nels Cline and Yuka Honda, among others) and Far Eastern collabo funanori. Roessler maintains a lower profile via an internet band with Ohio collaborators in between being a full-time ADR supervisor. Dos predates all of those collaborations, spawned from the March 1985 Minuteflag session that saw Watt and Roessler’s bands playing together simultaneously during rehearsals for seminal Flag release Loose Nut (SST, 1985). Initially, Watt and Kira explored two bass material recreationally and only occasionally recording the results, but dos became a much more serious proposition on December 22nd, 1985, when Watt bandmate/best friend Dennis ‘D” Boon was killed in a tragic van accident, bringing the Minutemen to a close. Watt was devastated by the loss to the point of near breakdown. Kira, at the time doing graduate work in New Haven, would send tapes of songs she had written to keep Watt playing. Watt did the same and the resulting duets became the first dos record. Released on Watt’s New Alliance label, the self-titled debut (1986) spawned a musical collaboration that continues to this day.
The most recent recorded project from the duo is dos y dos, released courtesy of new Watt recording entity Clenched Wrench. The release has been a long time coming. Watt had spieled as late as early 2007 that the record was in its mixing phase, but various factors have delayed its release. Those setbacks have made for a jaw-dropping 15 years since 1996s Justamente Tres (Kill Rock Stars), but it is a pleasure to report that dos y dos is now available in all the popular formats. Mixed by Cibo Matto’s Yuka Honda, the recording features the usual tasteful bass counterpoint over 13 mostly instrumental tracks. There are forays into vocal territory, mostly by Kira, and sometimes not in English, in the case of the Selena cover “No Me Queda Mas.” While the musical relationship has outlasted the marital bond, there is an obvious familiarity and intimacy to the recordings. The two know how play together, but its the way they stay out of each other’s way, whether it be vocally or instrumentally, that makes for such an interesting collaboration.
Even with such bonhomie, dos y dos is a record that is going to have limited appeal beyond old punks and bass nerds. Everything here is tasteful and fun to listen to, but be forewarned: dos y dos is not a choice for the musically unadventurous.Visit: dos | Clenched Wrench
Purchase: Insound | eMusic