Abandon Everything You Know

Doldrums Makes Music To Escape To

Doldrums by definition refers to stagnation, a belt of baffling winds, or a dull state of depression. But Doldrums, the music project of Airick Woodhead, is none of these things. In fact, this misdirection seems to be a guiding force for the complexly layered songs he creates.

The name Doldrums came from Woodhead’s favourite book as a child, The Phantom
Tollbooth. “It’s the place where nothing ever happens. I use music to kill that very feeling,” he said. “This is music as escapism.”

The structure of Doldrums’ music seems rendered by a vast group of people. In some ways, it is, as Woodhead uses sounds from all over the musical landscape.

“People always tell me that my music sounds like an amalgamation of everything. I guess that’s because I sample from all over the spectrum,” said Woodhead, citing mainstream R&B, classical music, future shock, bollywood, richwave and clip-clop as a few of his preferred sources.

For his first tour last year, Woodhead ventured through the United States’ lush west coast, spontaneously improvising every show with random musicians, including one memorable artist who created music solely on his iPhone. Next, he found himself in Toronto, with a band of percussionists, sound effects and vocalists.

Woodhead recently returned from a journey through the heart of America that found him playing multiple shows between Montreal and the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

Now touching down again briefly in Montreal, Woodhead looks forward to collaborating with fellow tour-star Grimes.

“Touring with Grimes was pretty real. Between the two of us we played 20 shows at SXSW and the audiences were all like, rioting and everybody’s bleeding and there’s shit on fire and… Oh, never mind. That was only for Odd Future,” Woodhead said, referring to the up-and-coming Los Angeles-based rap collective. “Sick show.”

Not unlike Odd Future, Woodhead just can’t seem to sit still. Next month he is springing over to Singapore and then to Europe for the summer, something he never imagined happening.

Woodhead’s sense of spontaneity also echoes in the way he creates his music.

“Music can happen all kinds of ways. There are no rules,” he said. “If there is a formula, I guess it usually involves mimicking something very inspiring, combined with the insatiable need to express yourself.

“My music is 90 per cent stolen by nature, as I work with samples, but when electronic music is imbued with real character—something as recognizable as the tonality of the human voice—that’s when it becomes a success. [That’s when it] can really communicate something.”

As for the future, Woodhead is on a whole different sound-cloud.

“Actually, right now I’d like to make music that rejects style and is very simple: drums and vocals. There are more human reasons for liking music than subscribing to its style.”

His music functions as a challenge to the listener to get the references he secretly sprinkles into the songs.
But perhaps it’s all a game. Woodhead seems to be a bit of a prankster.

“I want to trick the listener into believing there is something happening when there is really nothing happening. Shit! I just gave it away!”

Doldrums / Casa del Popolo / 4873 St. Laurent Blvd. / Tues., April 5 / 8 p.m. / with Capillary Action, Burls and The Elastic Fountains

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 29, published April 5, 2011.