Artist: Dot Hacker
Album: How’s Your Process (Work)
Release Date: July 1, 2014
Label: Org Music
Musical confidence can be a polarizing and dangerous concept.
Many would argue that showmanship and bravado are key elements in the ‘total package’ of a rock star’s carefully constructed image. Others tend to dissociate music with its creators and therefore take less stock in their personalities. Performers like Muse’s dynamic frontman Matthew Bellamy and the uber-talented yet perennially controversial Kanye West come to mind as modern examples of the neverending list of artists whose onstage and on-record achievements seem to be extensions of their egos. This strategy isn’t necessarily negative; Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon famously said we as audience members pay to see people believe in themselves, and it’s true, witnessing a performer at the height of their powers assume a godlike identity onstage can be quite the gratifying spectacle.
But this isn’t the case here.
Multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Josh Klinghoffer lies on the other end of this spectrum, a textbook introvert whose impressive musical versatility landed him spots touring with Gnarls Barkley and (currently) the Red Hot Chili Peppers. These high profile, established artists gave the soft-spoken Klinghoffer a chance to exude his subtle brand of virtuosity all while remaining inconspicuous and of the spotlight, and this seems to be his preference. His status as the founder, frontman and primary guitarist of L.A. based band Dot Hacker, then, feels almost drastically out of character. Their first record, 2012’s Inhibition, true to form, saw Klinghoffer’s whispery vocals remain almost unintelligibly low in the mix, a production choice that probably felt natural to him but nonetheless kept the record’s truly capable alternative and progressive rock songwriting from fully connecting.
Upon revisiting Inhibition numerous times, I was left desperately wanting this talented band to come into their own and produce a more dauntless follow-up, and my prayers were answered with their new mini-album “How’s Your Process? (Work)” the first of two projects to be released this year (the follow up, (“Play” comes out in October). Despite an awkward title and slightly confusing cover art, this collection of songs expands on the band’s Radiohead-esque experimentation and ethereal atmosphere in a manner that is much bolder, stronger, and well executed than its predecessor.
A variety of rhythms and textures are explored across the record’s 32 minutes, and from the insistent (“First in Forever”) to the sprawling (“Elevator”), Dot Hacker never break stride. The band find creative ways to bridge the gaps between sections, and the vocal mixing is simply sublime this time around. Klinghoffer’s voice is unleashed and reaches majestic heights, namely on the first single “Whatever You Want,” a garage-y jam that serves to wipe out the notion that rock is dead in 2014.
Inhibition and introversion be damned, Dot Hacker are here to stay.