Doldrums are band based around Bill Kellum, Matt Kellum and Justin Chearno. They get together every now and then (lately its been mostly then) and record. Bill Kellum has been running the amazing VHF label since 1991, which has released a stream of essential recordings from Skullflower, Flying Saucer Attack, Pelt, Rake, Wingtip Sloat, Total,
Sunroof!, Richard Youngs/ Simon Wickham -Smith and others. Justin Chearno played in an incredible and overlooked band called Pitchblende in the mid-90s, now he lives in NYC and plays guitar in Turing Machine and The Panthers. And Matt is an excellent drummer who also plays in a pop band called Chomsky.
Seeing as VHF is one of our favorite labels, and some tracks on promo cassettes and a single by a band called Doldrums appeared in 1994. When VHF released an album by Doldrums called The Secret Life of Machines in 1995 the disc got a lot of playtime at kranky. The band were more than happy to fulfill our demands for more Doldrums music and presented kranky with the Acupuncture CD in late 1996. The trio's combination of ambitious structure and live feel made an impression.
The Wire wrote that;
"There are spontaneous sections of the impressive Acupuncture... but these feel more like 'improvisation' - perhaps because the group show more intent, and a greater desire to explore. They certainly marshal rhythmic flexibility, and the instruments move around each other in captivating slo-mo. Subliminal hints of melody ghost in and out like reflections off moving surfaces. There are hints of the delicacy and disquiet of Labradford and Cul de Sac's careering rock improv, cut with field recordings and soundscapes as sombre as anything This Heat came up with."
As an informal band that more or less played and recorded when the members could find the time, Doldrums did what they did when they did it. VHF released a great Doldrums recording called Feng Shui in 1999. Taken from the same recording sessions that gave birth to the kranky album, Feng Shui is, paradoxically, dronier than the album Doldrums made for a supposed "drone label".
Bill Kellum explained the Doldrums modus operandi to Steve Phillips and Sadness Is In The Sky;
"I'm afraid the dull truth is that we just work very slowly... Working slowly/occasionally is a mixed blessing. Some tracks do need time to grow on you and since they all start as improvisations - sometimes it takes a while to hear the overall structural possibilities e.g. what tracks would sound good next to each other on a record.... All of our records have come out well after (1-2 years) they were recorded."
More time was taken for the second Doldrums kranky release, Desk Trickery. Basic tracks were recorded on an eight track tape deck, after a bit of time Bill Kellum transferred the music to ten CDs worth of rough mixes which were then overdubbed and tweaked over the course of a year. Desk Trickery is a selection of music from that pool. As Kellum explained it;
"Because of my day job, and having a life with my wife and other normal existence stuff I tend to work on label and band stuff maybe an hour each day. Since I've been 'lucky' enough to be appointed the editor/mixer of the Doldrums stuff, it just takes as long for me to get around to it. Desk Trickery wasn't a 2 year long laborious odyssey, it was a couple of months of concerted effort spread out over a very long time."
Brent Sirota said the following about Desk Trickery in Pitchfork on Dec. 10, 1999:
"Desk Trickery sweats righteousness. The music is curvaceous and sloppy, slurring in wonder and falling all over itself... the Doldrums expert use of computer editing is one of the ways in which the band seems to elude the retro tag; we don't need the illusion of an improv jam session and drum circle to hear the exploratory fascination the players seem to have with their own music. The whole album smacks of a ludicrous zeal that is simply infectious... Desk Trickery eschews those stabs at profundity that make too much head music transparent and dull. The album makes no attempts to veil the music's limitations; in fact, the album itself is the sound of the album being constructed. You can hear the decision-making process unfolding, the wrong turns and the mistakes as well as those moments where the band seems to pick up the trail again. As freaky as the sound gets, the human element is always present. you don't need drugs to dig Doldrums, the music will feed your head 'till its full."
Southern Doldrums page - www.southern.com/southern/band/DOLDR/
VHF - www.vhfrecords.com