Dog Unit
At Home

(Brace Yourself)


Of the many impressive qualities of the debut album from London instrumental quartet Dog Unit, perhaps the most important – if the easiest to initially miss – is its clarity. Everything here feels like it’s been thought through, refined, distilled; no note is wasted, no texture surplus to requirements, no idea either half-baked or overdone. Even the track titles are perfectly congruent: take the the modulated guitars of ‘Concrete Barges on the Banks of the Thames’, which lap against one other beautifully, the insistent current of the rhythm section eventually giving way to the systematic precision of ‘Lab Coats’. From the beginning, this is a record that just… makes sense.

Perhaps that sounds like damnation by faint praise, but it’s meant as a real compliment. Dog Unit make music that’s audibly purposeful and expertly-engineered; yet it’s not overdetermined or prejudiced by their obvious composure as artists. All the technique, all the accomplishment that’s on show on this debut, is deployed in the service of exploration rather than repetition or pastiche. This is playful, curious music – see the optimistic build of ‘We Can Still Win This’ or the noirish groove of ‘John X Kennedy’ – rather than the kind of sterile box-ticker rock that might be implied by talk of “precision” or “just making sense” (funnily enough, there is a big-suited spectre haunting much of this record, although it’s more the David Byrne of Brian Eno collaboration Everything That Happens Will Happen Today than his Demme-captured ’80s pomp).

In many ways, Dog Unit are one of those bands it’s easy to roughly describe – a four-piece instrumental group of very accomplished, capable players, combining the cinematic scope of classic post-rock (Tortoise, Trans Am, Slint) with the mechanical verve of ’70s Kraut and psych – without ever quite nailing. There are familiar genre signifiers here, but beneath them there’s a real depth, the product of long hours of playing together, forming personal bonds as well as artistic relationships; these tracks feel inhabited, organic, vital in a genuinely fundamental sense. In that way, even the album’s title is supremely well-chosen: At Home is a record to live inside and cherish.