Daily Thumbprint 3, The Wandering is a curious and at the same time, unassuming title for a mammoth musical project that turned into a labour of love for American drummer, composer, and musical traveller Caleb Dolister, who plays drums, produces and writes for the esoteric trio The Kandinsky Effect. The project was compiled over more than ten years, as our man travelled the length and breadth of the USA recording the various parts that comprise this album, surviving all manner of hardships along the way, including a serious car accident that totalled his SUV, but luckily saw our intrepid hero not only survive, but also manage to rescue the laptop that contained “years of work on the project, and the hard drive that contained all the backups” from the dangerously smouldering wreckage. Phew!
This is the third in Dolister’s Daily Thumbprint series, and by far the most ambitious to date. On his numerous trips by road and airplane, he recorded two dozen musicians recording parts to his through-composed score, which was initially imagined as being played by a rock orchestra, Dolister bringing it to reality by visiting each musician’s location, recording, and then later going through hours upon hours of editing and post-production. The dates in the track titles refer to the date each composition started, and each track title is a reference specific to a memory on the journey. Given that three of those dates end in numbers greater than 20, one can only assume that is the day, not the year. As if the way Americans write dates is not confusing enough already!
Despite the disparate nature of the recording process, a musical narrative winds through the songs, and they are knitted together in a surprisingly seamless manner given the circumstances. Underpinning it all is Dolister’s strong sense of rhythm, and his rock sensibilities, often marrying tasty treated guitar passages to the unfolding symphonic nature of the record.
The whole is a vision of the roadmap in Caleb’s head, both physical and musical, and as such it refuses to be pigeonholed, and the instrumentation is simply gorgeous throughout. A highlight for me is the under two-and-a-half minute 070501 [the acrobat], which is propelled by a deft rhythm that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Aphex Twin track, but here it is played manually, which only adds to its emotional heft. Over this are some plucked strings, and later some swaying cello and lyrical guitar, all treated with some unidentifiable electronica, very nice indeed. The following 080904 [the strategist] features the most animated guitar on the record, and is quite thrilling.
The colours are ever-changing as the scenery passes by, the unfolding symphony illuminating a land of hope. The bonus track, 081013 [the hum], which on the review download is at the end, but is listed at the beginning on the Bandcamp page, is the darkest thing on the album, probably why it’s a bonus track. While the album takes us through an intriguing but never threatening landscape, this last (or first) track turns the lights down low and points at darker themes. Luckily, as we all know by now, the lights in the USA recently got turned back on again, and, judging by Daily Thumbprint 3, The Wandering I cannot think of a better person to document this new awakening, should he choose to do it.
01. 081013 [the hum] (bonus track) (3:58)
02. 080620 [the second place] (4:28)
03. 090921 [the one that went away] (3:26)
04. 090210 [the eavesdropper] (2:48)
05. 080721 [the machinist] (3:04)
06. 081227 [the formalist] (4:25)
07. 070501 [the acrobat] (2:24)
08. 080904 [the strategist] (4:47)
09. 090510 [the drifter] (6:33)
10. 081205 [the one that lost their way] (4:13)
11. 081214 [the finalist] (6:03)
Total Time – 46:11
Adam Agati – Guitar
Adam Benjamin – Rhodes
Dorothy Bowers Wu – Flute
Caleb Dolister – Drums
Peter Epstein – Saxophone
Garett Grow – Piano
Ryan Hall – Guitar
James Hoover – Saxophones, Effects
Drew Jorgensen – Vibraphone
Sam Minaie – Electric Bass
Alex Noice – Guitar
Charlie Pate – Mandolin
Charith Premawardhana – Viola
Dan Rosenboom – Trumpet
Marina Roznitovsky Oster – Harp
Tristan Selzler – Trombone, Accordion
Perry Smith – Guitar
Charles Taggart – Cello
Adam Theis – Trombone, Tuba
Gavin Templeton – Saxophone
Zack Teran – Upright Bass
Brian Walsh – Clarinet, Bass Clarinet
Kati Wentink – Viola, Violin
Record Label: Orenda Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 5th June 2020