"Desert Rock. Post-Rock. Anti-pop. Anthemic post-prog-rock. Ambient-tech-jazz muzak. It's still rock n roll to me... Sydney trio do not write three minute pop songs instead they explore eight minute aural soundscapes that would seem more at home on a soundtrack album than a rock LP. Still, taken in small manageable doses, El Caballo Rojo can be simply brilliant."
"...Dead Letter Office waltzes to a morbid mystery..."
"...the melodic side of the band formerly known as 2 Litre Dolby appears with Dead Letter Office again featuring Mullins' vocals in what is a more traditional song setting..."
All good things come to those who wait. 2 Litre Dolby’s first record, El Caballo Rojo was released in 1999. Yet here we are, a third of the way through the year 2000, and it’s only just appearing on The Electric Newspaper, your friendly (or not so friendly depending on the quality of music) daily music review site. What’s up with that? Well, not much really. Needless to say, El Caballo Rojo is an awesome record, and a very assured one for a band that had only been for a short time before its recording.
Starting at the start is an impossibility with El Caballo Rojo. It doesn’t start at the start, which seems illogical but actually makes perfect sense once all is explained. You can’t just put the red disc into the player and press play. You have to put the red disc into the player, press replay and then press rewind until you think you’ve reached the beginning of the track. Ah, a hidden track! Magical. Tricky. Confusing. Why not just put it at the end of the disc after six or seven minutes worth of silence? Surely that makes more sense? Apparently not. With today’s modern technology, unnamed tracks (although this one does have a name and is called “Honey Von Cuttule”, which previously appeared on the wonder from a quarter acre compilation) can go at the start of the disc and thus confuse the buggery out of everyone. Cool, huh?
2 Litre Dolby have a history, with principle singer/bass guitarist Leo Mullins coming from the Sydney pop band the Welcome Mat. Perhaps that’s where their mature sound comes from, but you wouldn’t pick it. The sound of 2 litre dolby is, on the whole, pure unadulterated math rock. It’s got it all: pounding drums, buzz-saw guitars, fluid bass lines and some screamed/some sung lyrically obtuse musings. It’s unsurprising to think then that prior to the recording of El Caballo Rojo, 2 Litre Dolby moved to Melbourne, where their sound is part of a burgeoning underground scene.
But it’s not all June of 44-isms on El Caballo Rojo. Yes, the eleven minute opening track (not including the hidden one) “The Fish + the Drowned Man” is similar in some respects to June of 44’s “Anisette” or perhaps even more so “Sharks and Sailors”. But the next three are decidedly different. “Frida Kahlo” has been heard before on the wonder from a quarter acre compilation, albeit in truncated form. “Good Morning Hal” is as esoteric as you can get, coming off sounding like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, hence the title. But then the greatest of great 2 Litre Dolby tracks emerges. “Dead Letter Office” is as good as music gets these days. Six minutes of restrained beauty, it’s as good – if not better – than anything written by any post-rock ‘legend’.
But can 2 Litre Dolby really be so easily categorised as ‘post-rock’? Hardly. Their sound is too varied and too dynamic to simply be pigeonholed with a bunch of bands who they really hold no relevance to. Yes, there are elements of the likes of Slint in there, particularly on a track like album closer “Johnny Bombay”, but there’s a lot more going on during the sixty-three minutes of El Caballo Rojo than a more mundane post-rock band could muster. “The Paper Dawn” and “Mystery of Sixes” are some of the most brooding tracks you’ll ever here, whilst “Nostromo” revisits the electronic landscapes already visited on “Good Morning Hal”. And, as people who’ve already heard the wonder from a quarter acre compilation will know, “Frida Kahlo” could almost be considered a pop song, although it’s too slow to really be a pop song and perhaps “Dead Letter Office” could be considered a pop song too, but it too is simply restrained brilliance.
2 Litre Dolby have a lot to offer Australian music. Recorded with Nick Carroll (of sandro fame), El Caballo Rojo has a great feel and sound to it. Loosely translated as ‘the red horse’, El Caballo Rojo is a little like a filly. It’s all over the place dynamically, but it’s alright because it grows into a fine, well rounded beast. Where 2 Litre Dolby go from here is anyone’s guess, but they appear to have the potential to be in the top class of bands around the world. - The Electric Newspaper