A moody piece built on a robust bassline, tasty acoustic-guitar jangle, and a sparse drizzle of strings, “Doldrum” is Kubra Commander in peak form.
A good song ropes you in. A second from the same artist is a magnificent reckoning, but not seriously so, especially if the ingredients are even marginally similar. A third is, well, embroiled in the same wrangling: one either acquiesces or disengages. And the world spins madly on and all that.
That’s my personal ballpark anyway, and, applying it to my dalliances with the music of Kubra Commander—their last three singles at least, including the one launching today—my appreciation has traversed the same map like clockwork:
(1) a rough curiosity, sufficiently piqued by the tuneful riffage and hypnosis of “Garden Bistro”;
(2) a desire for confirmation, engaged upon spinning “I’ve Seen the Heathens Cry,” with its “absence of spikes and peaks” and its uncanny ability to approximate nondescript drapery; and lastly,
(3) the anticipation of a hearty mix of the novel and the familiar, which “Doldrum” gamely and squarely delivers.
The song, purportedly about “doubts, fears, and the dilemma of whether to throw things away or not,” is a moody piece built on a robust bassline, tasty acoustic-guitar jangle, and a sparse drizzle of strings. And as KC tunes go, there’s a modular nature to it: the words functioning like sing-song phonemes rather than just signifiers of meaning; the musical elements rather like trinkets on a beautifully repurposed tree.
Singer-guitarist J. Martino Olvido remains masterful in his grasp of the hook, his melodious phraseology straight from the Gallagher Brothers playbook, but his trippy cadence all his own. The KC rhythm section— bassist Jah Acab, drummer Tim Williams—remains a testament to restraint, while the rest of them, counting axeman Joko Nozawa and Lynel Sucalit on keys, provide dashes of color whose very discreetness (and inherent unfussiness) are the stuff great songs are built on.
“Doldrum” may be borne of, well, doldrums, but doesn’t produce the same effect: despite (and perhaps because of) its trance-inducing rhythms and mirror patterns, this new KC romp is strangely gripping, the same way sublime forms of art like the haiku or a well-thought-out installation are gripping.
“Are you contemplating / You should be concentrating / Don’t you ever lose your ground,” Olvido sings, and it’s fascinating how this may speak of the music his band makes, too.
So, fair play, dear sir, you seem on the tracks still, from where we stand.