Paul Dolden is a maximalist’s maximalist, combining literally hundreds of simultaneous acoustic tracks of standard orchestral instruments, augmented with rock drums and guitars and spiced with exotic instruments. So great is the attention paid to the minutest detail of each track that, in fractal-like fashion, there seems to be equal complexity no matter how deeply you go. The sheer amount of information is fascinating enough, yet Dolden is also a world-class composer, keeping his signature sound while exploring new musical concepts with each release.
Early works such as Below the Walls of Jericho (1988–89) exposed Dolden’s basic modus operandi, a wall of sound so massive that it makes Phil Spector’s seem like a Lego prototype. Equally important is the subtle use of non-Western tunings, constantly shifting time signatures—which are often different between tracks within the same section—and clever transitions between clearly delineated movements of each piece.
All of the above are present in spades on the three works on Histoires d’histoires. Music of Another Present Era, the major opus (five parts over forty-four minutes), reimagines myths from the past: for example, “Marsyas’ Melodies” takes on the aspect of an ancient jazz-cutting session, and “Shango’s Funkiness” provides an excuse to mess with West African and South American polyrhythms. BeBop Baghdad features a guitarist playing over prerecorded tape, following an accompaniment around the globe. The final work, Show Tunes in Samarian Starlight explores how a melody morphs as it is filtered through a myriad of tuning systems.
Amazingly, the whole somehow exceeds the sum of its uncountable parts on this CD, where traditional compositional techniques are brought to new extremes.