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SoCal musician mends heartbreak on debut

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By Cory Bilicko
Arts & Entertainment Writer

Any initial comparisons that singer/songwriter Dorian Wood might inspire, such as to Jeff Buckley’s haunting hums or Antony and the Johnsons’ sometimes unsettling vibrato, are promptly supplanted. Wood’s music exists in a time-space continuum of its own, and, in the current musical climate of corporate test-audiences and premature song sharing on the net, Wood’s is perhaps the most appealing kind to jaded ears, the kind that’s hard to categorize.
Wood’s voice is evocative of those persons, places and things in your mind that ring like cultural archetypes (the carnival ring leader who knows everyone’s secrets, the fool lamenting at the moon, the gregarious saloon piano player), but these apparently familiar characters he seems to be depicting yank at the proverbial rug under you and demonstrate his dynamic cultural literacy. Though they draw from different sources, his songs’ emotional roots are firmly planted in his own experience.
These lyrics might seem the sort that are strictly personal, to the point that they’re unrelatable, but they express sentiments to which we can all connect on a base level emotionally. “No one breaks my heart and lives” and “Hell hath no prison like your arms and all that they evoke” certainly ring a bell in our collective broken heart. But torch songs these are not. Instead, they are the results of a person blessed enough to be in touch with his artistic talent so that he can put his broken heart aside and use his craft to again find the beauty in himself. He takes that beauty and imprints it on his first official album, Bolka, for all of us to behold.
With its genesis as a collection of hate hymns, including a break-up song in his ex’s native Bulgarian, Bolka ultimately progressed into a labor of healing and redemption. The song “Apple Heart” was written the day after the break-up, and he says it was surprisingly easy to write.
But the album ended up being the most personal and draining work he’d done. “It’s not so fun to have to revisit moments of heartbreak over and over, both in the post-production process as well as in the performance aspect,” he says. “So I close my eyes and focus solely on the voice. Of course, moments here and there pinch at the soul, which makes it impossible to deliver a phony performance.”
A native of Echo Park, California, he learned very young how to play piano, under the guidance of his grandfather, pianist/composer Calasanz Alvarez, performing his first recital at five years old. He later attended the Conservatorio de Castella, a high school of the arts in Costa Rica. After returning to California, he studied film at Los Angeles City College for two years then dropped out to concentrate on music.
On the CD cover for Bolka which is designed by Palm Springs artist Anthony Hurd, you’ll see Wood’s face. It’s a tiny, white, mask-like countenance amidst a collage-like tapestry of colorless abstraction. But it’s also in other places, concealed in the psychedelic swirls and surrealist forms. He’s there if you look a little, just a little broken and bent. Just the way we love our artists.
Bolka is available at www and at Amoeba Music. Dorian Wood will be performing at the Micro Art Gallery in downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 17 and at the Latino New Works Festival at Highways Performance Space Santa Monica September 14-16, and he hopes to perform in Long Beach later this year.

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SoCal musician mends heartbreak on debut