Tashi Dorji is a natural improviser, constantly wrestling with and balancing micro-tonal directions he simultaneously creates and reacts to. Listening to him is like watching a botanist collect seeds, find how to plant them, and learn the patience in handling each one differently. His music is transportive but apparent. Dorji’s approach reaches from Bill Orcutt’s highly spastic 55-notes-made-of-5-note splatters to Derek Bailey’s harmonized hyper-textural guitar style. Given his various and focused output in the past few years, it’s hard not to put him on the same list as those avant-garde guitarists.
His two main releases in 2015, Blue Twelve and Appa, like most of his recordings consist of small but distinct palettes. Blue Twelve is mostly clean electric guitar, working with volume swells and a separate microphone picking up acoustic motions. Appa shows Dorji’s flamenco sensibilities focusing on odd but nimble melodic contours with slight affectations to the guitar, such as wedging the strings up above the bridge.
With each release I am reminded of an interview with Tashi in Wire magazine (#362). He notes when he lived in Bhutan his only connection outside of the region was through an old radio and bootleg tapes from convenience stores. He approached the radio and tapes more interactively than most of us would think to, playing with them and considering them as people in a room. When he moved to the States he was open to a whole new way of taking in music but it seems like while taking in these contexts of musical languages, he relies on this sense of isolation as a means to an end in his recordings.
These two releases continue to prove Dorji’s versatility. It would be a complete misstep to approach these albums as, well, albums, as they don’t consider any type of commercial appeal. They are part of a building record of Tashi’s inner thoughts, his way of telling stories. These albums come from a dexterous artist who can just as easily paste tiny worlds together with broad strokes as make the unique language of each radio station seem like islands on the same planet, a unique approach that continues to make his instrument of choice seem foreign yet familiar.