Some say that time is an illusion, a human construct, a shimmer in the otherwise bright light of life. The passage of time, however, is a certainty, leaving its trace strewn throughout the landscape and in between the years as they come and go. After a one-year hiatus, preceded by a decade of non-stop creativity, the jam scene powerhouse quartet Dopapod has set May 24 as the day to unveil to the world their interpretation of this concept, ironically immortalized via their latest album, Emit Time.
Dopapod has always had a knack for tricking time. Odd time signatures, overlapping melodic content, and live improvisation that extends the length of their songs beyond their studio counterparts mark the bulk of their compositions. Their palindromic album titles wink to the infinite nature of time and they’ve broken the rules in the past by performing intricate works in reverse. This new collection is a true emission of time, containing never-before-heard songs among others that have been in the live rotation for a few years. As many creative people will tell you, true artists must have the ability and see the necessity to keep pushing forward, to embrace the inevitability of growth and change. This band has taken strands of their DNA and weaved them into works that feel fresh. They are unfamiliar in their display yet familiar to the Dopapod formula of rock solid rhythms,
The album opens with a lone pulsating organ that bursts wide open into a deep-pocket funk beat with a chomping guitar riff. “Numbers Need Humans” is a testament to the “live in the moment” attitude that energizes so much of the progressive jam scene. As was proven with the first song in the second set at the band’s recent Capitol Theatre reunion gig, this track is a great opener, prepping listeners by reminding them, “Time is all we have / So let’s have a good time.” Placed before a tightly executed guitar solo, the lyrics operate as a thematic entrance for the topic at hand through the rest of the album. “Tick tock, hands move around the clock / On the dot, that’s when time stops.”
Following in the order of when it was released as a single, “Test of Time” comes second. This 7-minute, multi-section, progressive number is evidence that the layers time has piled onto this group are beginning to show signs of evolution. Guitarist Rob Compa leads the way, singing through a “gateway to another time.” Next to a familiar synth hook, sure to cue Eli’s signature head-bop, there is a rocking chorus and expressive singing, something that has made more and more of an appearance in Dopapod music on the last few albums and certainly on this one.
“23 Forever” gives bassist Chuck Jones a turn on lead vocals, bringing his sense of humor to a memorable and extremely catchy chorus. This song feels like the band is revisiting a funny memory and having a good laugh about it. Another new song, “Live In The Dream” offers a consistent mid-tempo groove that gets progressively aggressive leading up to its guitar solo crescendo. A descending vocal round, “..live in the dream, live in the dream, live in the dream,” leads the song down to a decisive close.
For the most part, this collection of songs is the most thematic that Dopapod has released as an album. As mentioned by Eli in the bands press release for Emit Time, “Interestingly, we had been developing a semi-concept album about time and time travel before the hiatus.” In combination with the feelings from that hiatus, a new album about time and time travel feels pretty appropriate.
Still leaving room for some road tested material, “Superbowl” and “Weedie” give the album a taste of the past. “Superbowl,” a song debuted in 2016, slows up the pace but is a well-crafted atmospheric blend of synthesizer, orchestral strings, and resounding guitar. From there, “Weedie” hits with a guitar-heavy rock riff. Again, the lyrical content refers to the mindful present-living ethos, “We have our ups and downs / But life is lived in the now.”
“Landmines” is another debut that starts to bring the album down on its two-song final descent. The bulk of this song is based on a down-tempo 16th note groove, accentuated by a tinge of spy-guitar reminiscent of something to be found in a classic James Bond film. The mid-section, however, creates a distinct change with a straightforward rock progression and brief organ solo. As it peaks, the main theme is called back as Rob plays passionately with a slide. The final track, “Whale (I Am),” is a beautifully executed landing that pairs a drifting and uncluttered tone with delicate keyboard lines and airy vocals.
Though the album seems short in length at 8 songs, it clocks in around 45 minutes in total. It does unload a powerful punch with its production and covers a lot of ground, but it still feels like there is room to tag on one or two more tracks. “Superbowl” begins to feel a tad drawn out at the end and the album’s finale might benefit from a more energetic closing jam. Dopapod fans are a hungry bunch and when you’re as creative as these guys, new songs are always welcomed.
Dopapod has executed their return well. They have managed to keep their fan base interested and committed for an entire year, without playing a single show, just by promising to come back. They made good on that promise, they have fresh material to present, and are keeping their appearances this summer to a unique minimum. The focus on ideas relating to time make this a relatable and inspiring listen. The band does a great job of exploring creative opportunities here, testing the potential of their inventive approach to music by applying it in new ways, taking them in new directions.
Key Tracks: “Numbers Need Humans,” “Live In The Dream” and “Weedie.”