Review : Do Make Say Think - Other Truths
PitchforkWhen instrumental rock bands get tapped for soundtracks, it can be kind of a gut-check that tests how a wider audience may view their music. Sigur Rós' folkloric melodrama and emotive language made sense as a backdrop for Vanilla Sky, itself a sort of sci-fi fairytale about misplaced and unrequited love starring someone prone to over-excitement. The charged music of Explosions in the Sky fit the open expanses and crushing blows of Friday Night Lights' take on Texas high school football culture (hell, guitarist Munaf Rayani sometimes bends over his instrument like a lineman crouching down into a three-point stance). So it seemed odd that a track by Canadians Do Make Say Think was chosen for the oil industry drama Syriana. Not to say the Toronto post-rock band doesn't make the kind of mesmerizing music suitable for a film score (or that the more tense, overtly politicized music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor might have been a better fit). But DMST can sound so pastoral-- the music was literally recorded in a barn, in some cases-- it may seem to lack the bite for a blood-for-oil flick.
While Do Make Say Think can project a gentle, laid-back vibe-- member Charles Spearin did just finish The Happiness Project-- they're far from spinning their wheels and rehashing post-rock clichés. Other Truths doesn't roughen up the band's jazz-steeped aesthetic. But it does add more dimensions and sharp textures to their songwriting, which continues to get tighter yet wider in scope. Spread across a suite of four lengthy tracks and titled with the same string of verbs as the band's name, the album isn't about momentum as much as it is about transitions. Opener "Do" starts with crisp, intertwined guitar lines playing off one another. As the track morphs and unfurls-- cue the slow-build and crescendo-- the themes reappear more charged, parrying with horns and descending into static. "Make" quietly delays the payoff, slowly ratcheting things up and marching toward a climax with a floor of tense bass, echoing chants, and sinewy, stretched string notes. When a warm motif of horns and fuzzed guitars begins to cut through the dread, the song's color noticeably shifts. "Say" strikes a grandiose yet road-weary tone, as a lonely slide guitar melody gets echoed and expanded by trumpets and churning drums, while "Think" may be its companion and comedown, a slow trail set forth by a quivering, reverb-laden guitar line....full text
StrangeglueThroughout their recording history Do Make Say Think have maintained a bewitching musical naïveté. At times you can hear them struggling to keep it alive, at others it gushes out unimpeded. Other Truths starts with the latter, bursting out of the door with ‘Do’ (yeah, you know what’s coming, three tracks to follow…), but touches on the former throughout. Apart from their unique guitar interplay, mystical brass and ecstatic percussion this is the contrast that keeps them going. They’re pretty much one of the only instrumental rock bands I still listen to.
Or is it naiveté after all? We’re in at the deep-end now, but I promise we’ll be swimming to brighter waters soon enough, it’s inevitable. Do Make Say Think seem very aware that music and everything could mean fuck all, but they have a firm-rooted conviction in mirth, beauty and ploughing on through whatever obscures that without losing their shit and taking it personally.
The twelve minute ‘Make’ starts out with one of the most addictive odd time signatures I have ever heard. A guitar, sounding for all the world like wood and electricity personified, sets up a brood. The drums make a seamless transition from tight and insistent kick/snare/high-hat cascades to heavier, more emotional rolling over the toms. These details are exquisite, and exciting to discover. A brief passage of distant chanting emphasises the slight tribal undercurrent (perhaps courtesy of the Akron Family and Lullabye Arkestra, who are credited with a vocal presence on the album).
The guitars then ascend with some subtle chorus effect adding new colour, eight minutes later and a surge of horns is bringing out the Pioneer in all of us. Post-Rock has been so verbally dogged by the word cinematic that even citing the overuse is a longstanding cliché, but listening to this record has inclined me to suggest that these guys have the skill of true cinematographers. They know how to shift one scene to another without predicting themselves in the transition. They have an intuitive understanding of colour and media: blending ragged and worn tape with blissful processed washes, while pristine clarity hovers in the distance.
I could go on, but that would mean going on, so I’ll wrap it up by quoting Nick Cave, speaking yesterday on Radio 4’s The Today Programme:
“the worst thing that can happen in a film is when you feel over manipulated by the music… all music is manipulative, it’s whether it’s overly-manipulative or not”
I find bands like Explosions in the Sky overly manipulative, whereas I feel that Do Make Say Think achieve a real subtlety, which makes their bombast all the more rewarding. The moods are frequently hard to classify and although much of Other Truths is buoyant and sprightly, recalling most recent full length History in Rust, it surpasses that grand but not great album by incorporating more of the rough, jazz inflected transitions that made Winter Hymn, Country Hymn, Secret Hymn my favourite DMST record. The last two minutes of ‘Make’ blend Yanqui U.X.O era Godspeed with my memories of playing Christmas carols with a brass band in the town square when I was ten years old. Add a touch of Sufjan-esque honest-to-goodness warmth and you have somewhere very intriguing, colourful and life affirming for the imagination to inhabit. Manipulative, but not…
‘Think’ leaves me adrift in foreign lands, vibrato bends country chords down through the soil and up through the sky, and Other Truths has reminded me that every time I listen to a Do Make Say Think record I come out feeling rather fortunate to be making my way through things....full text
TheskinnyAs one of the leading reasons for Constellation's impeccable reputation, Toronto's Do Make Say Think somehow make being brilliant look and sound infuriatingly easy. The eight current members mix multiple drum kits, guitar, bass, violin, percussion, brass and woodwind into a vibrant nebula of jazz meets post-rock meets folk. Improving on the wobbly sound quality of some earlier releases, Other Truths is thankfully a relatively hi-fi recording, beautifully communicating the subtleties of this inspirational octet's lavish music. Opening track Do is the most urgent of those on show (the others unsurprisingly titled, Make, Say and Think) with an uncharacteristically prominent use of guitar, yet it never lapses into the delay-heavy arpeggiation of lesser contemporaries like Explosions In The Sky. Perhaps thanks to their folk background, DMST also hold onto a natural, airiness; avoiding fussy arrangement or heavy compression, allowing room to breathe and providing this album with a freshness on repeated listens....full text
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