I always preferred instrumental music. Even my first and greatest musical love, Talking Heads, might have attracted my toddler self with song names like "Burning Down The House" and songs about babies not wanting to go to sleep, but it was their music that had me dancing all around the house (which is true to this day.) Of course, as popular live instrumental music that has broken through to the mainstream in the 21st century via acts like Explosions in the Sky, Sunn O))) (I mean, the vocals that are there might as well be instruments), Pelican, Mono, and Grails, not to mention vanguard bands like Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, and Slint and My Bloody Valentine, both of whom place a heavy onus on instrumentation. But being a young teenager in rural Ohio and not having much access to the information I would in only a few years led me through some odd patches before falling in love with post-rock from around 2000 to 2004.
Having gotten caught up in the jamband scene for a couple of years at the start of high school, that for me was the closest thing I ever had to punk as my dad (rightly) dismissed it as a bunch of navel-gazing and ultimately, I was interested in the few bands who were essentially doing a lesser form of post-rock. Ultimately, though, it was a year-long descent into jazz that led me to finding bands like Don Caballero, Tortoise, Chicago Underground Duo, The Mercury Program, Godspeed, Explosions in the Sky, and a host of others (let's just say I was very into the Temporary Residence label). And while a lot of the music is far too maudlin for me to take now, it certainly resonated with my teenage self and also helped to lie the bedrock for a lot of the music I listen to now.
Now quickly, as we should know, post-rock as we know it, though having popped up in a few errant reviews as early as the 70s, was brought into being by our old pal Simon Reynolds. Bypassing a critical assessment of the semantic of the term, let's just say the critic was attempting to make sense of a growing number of bands that seemed to undermine the traditional hierarchies of rock bands as the front man was jettisoned and group interplay taking center stage led to bands making artful, studio-enhanced album-length statements that did away with a lot of the traditional "rockist" ways of thinking. And groups that were approaching live music in all new ways were popping up on either side of the Atlantic in the likes of such ensembles as Bark Psychosis, Pram, Moonshake, and Gastr Del Sol that hailed from the UK and midwestern hubs like Chicago.
Canada's, and in this particular case, Toronto and Monteal's role in the post-rock narrative is a prominent and uniquely home-grown one. Similar to the movement of Canadian disco known as Québécois Disco that emerged in the early 80s when Montreal became an international dance music hotspot, a cluster of hugely influential bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor! assembled around that group and the Constellation record label, which included the likes of the groovy melodic jams of Fly Pan Am and the high concepts of A Silver Mt. Zion, and the stars of this piece, Do Make Say Think. However, as I was recently reminded me by a certain FPA member (and revealed my geographic failings in doing so) Do Make were a Toronto band and perhaps for that reason or a thousand others, they sounded like nothing else on Constellation or in post-rock, period to these ears. And fittingly enough, Do Make were the last dyed-in-the-wool post-rock band I got into, not gaining access to their discography until I gained access to the shared network of the tiny liberal arts school I attended in nowhere, Iowa. Hearing DMST for the first time was a shot of adrenaline to my weary post-rock fanboy self who was growing bored of the more dramatic, structurally-simplistic, and linear strain that was being popularized by Austin, TX outfit Explosions in the Sky (whose first proper album remains a landmark in my opinion and whose second pioneered an American style of arena-ready emotionality). Though it should be noted that many bands struggled with the desire to create melodically-enticing music without relying too heavily on certain templates.
Explosions in the Sky, that great American band that can soundtrack the intense highs-and-lows of Texas football through their status as the poster band for what some have dubbed as "crescendocore," which like it sounds, refers to groups like Isis, Godspeed, and Explosions. These bands, while extremely disparate from one another, tend to locate their most memorable or iconic moments within the release of the often long-building crescendo, creating a breed of music that ebbs and flows, that builds and disintegrates while usually maintaining a pretty steady 4/4 or 6/8 time signature. And as much as I loved Explosions at a certain point in my life, it was finally hearing Do Make in the form of their absolute pinnacle of a full-length statement, 2003's & Yet & Yet, that truly opened my eyes to a wholly new approach to emotionally-charged yet heady instrumental music that utilized a traditional guitar-and-drums framework, just like another all-time favorite band, Pittsburgh's Don Caballero, had done a couple years prior. By their final two albums (What Burns Never Returns and American Don) Don Cab had wriggled their way out from underneath the math rock genre tag into something in between post-rock and fusion where songs felt either immaculately composed or unfolded like a series of organic-yet-composed jams stitched together and guided by the band's own internal clock. Do Make's ability to take odd time signatures, lush and dense instrumentation, and studio editing to create an effortless-sounding brand of instrumental music led them to join an elite echelon of paradigm-shifting bands, in my mind, that have truly taught me what is truly possible when playing with others, including the likes of Neu!, Lightning Bolt, Hella, Don Cab, Tortoise, Can, This Heat, and so many others. This Heat is very much an appropriate analog as Do Make was a band extremely accomplished at playing as a unit but also utilized a number of studio tricks and deft editing to place their music ahead of most of their more traditional (re: rockist) peers, achieving levels of studio sophistry akin to Tortoise and their drummer John McEntire. .
In October of 2004, during a week-long break from college, I spent the whole time in Chicago, having the time of my life on a trip that was bookended by seeing shows from both Explosions and Do Make. I saw Explosions the Friday that classes ended, following a five-hour drive to Chicago's Logan Square where we entered a towering venue that resembled both an abandoned factory and a church. It was a suitable setting for a band with such a rich, room-filling sound and the venue was absolutely packed with around a thousand of the heartland's most sensitive souls. Yet, tried as I might, I couldn't surrender myself to the music as I had been able to so many times int he past; perhaps it was the guitarist's affected playing and ham-fisted facial expression or the affected sense of drama and extravagance within a rather workhorse type of music. For the last third, I was curled up in a ball at the back of the venue's balcony, eyes closed, and for a brief moment I was able to escape my corporeality and enter a world produced by the music's effect on my brain. Did I mention it was brief? Soon a young woman asking me if I was OK brought me back to scenester Chicago and after that night, I never felt the same charge from the band's music, thought they would go on to reach some great heights.
The Do Make show at the Empty Bottle the following Friday felt like an entirely different affair, with about a quarter of the crowd that Explosions had commanded and the crown and the band sharing a considerably tighter space, making for a much more intimate event form the get-go. This crowd seemed far more focused on and receptive to the music that soon began to magically emanate from the stage as bassist Charles Spearin blew through only the mouth piece of a trumpet, creating an uncanny drone that cast the room silent and drew us under the spell of six or seven (I really don't recall) musicians on stage playing as one. And as Spearin informed us about halfway through, they were missing one of their core members due to a previous issue crossing the border into America when the border police found cannabis on him. I should note, talking about pot in 2004 indie rock Chicago wasn't especially cool or common. Not that people didn't smoke, but they were much more inclined towards drinking, at least it appeared to me. And having finally stopped getting the panic attacks I had long associated with cannabis consumption, opening myself to a whole new way of hearing music and experiencing art, I was at the beginning of a lifelong love affair with the medicine and also in the process of reevaluating my musical tastes, jettisoning the indie rock I had devoured during my first year in college for gateways into electronic music such as Colleen, Fennesz, Tim Hecker, Oval, and many others. And while the electronics Do Make had used so heavily on their first album and more organically on subsequent were seemingly absent, making the sounds they called into existence over the next hour all the more astounding, from Spearin's mouthpiece drones to Ohad Benchetrit's deeply soulful guitar playing (it was almost comedic seeing him after watching Explosion's moody lead guitarist as here was someone who was undeniably an artist, but one who lived and breathed his art in a most profound manner. Seeing the many studio tricks I had obsessed over on & Yet & Yet and the previous year's Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn replicated with just pedals, keys, and skill alongside the astoundingly flawless interplay between drummers Dave Mitchell and James Payment did nothing short of blow my young mind wide open, setting a standard for live performance that no guitar-and-drum-based has quite met (though early Battles came quite close.)
Fast forward to a few months back earlier this year as I get into the ZipCar of a beloved friend and hear the type of crystalline, heart-wrenching guitar line Explosions had popularized. But this was different; this riff had depth, an odd time signature, a slight askew harmonic sense, and rhythm. Simply put, it was awesome. I soon found out I was listening to the middle section of Do Make's seventh 'proper' album (not counting their first tape). As our ZipCar soon left the gray-ness of Brooklyn for the lush greenery of Long Island in spring, the album looped back over to the start and I was subsequently knocked out by the one-two punch of "War on Torpor" and "Horripolation." It was actually that evening, when I was with a different but equally beloved friend, one who had been by my side during my post-rock heyday, re-listening to the album Stubborn Persistent Illusions, which is officially out this Friday May 19 on Constellation that I decided to do this piece in the first place.
While I had originally hoped to do something of a history of the band, lack of time and resources left me with simply listening to their whole catalog again and again, identifying recurring motifs and tropes and regaining the appreciation for this remarkable band that I had forgotten about somewhere in the past decade. I've long-joked that DMST is like post-rock's equivalent to The JB's; an ever-shiftive collective musicians with five core members who craft unbelievably tight grooves augmented by horns, violins, and atmospheric electronics. Their two-drummer set-up, as provided by longtime members Mitchell and Payment, has provided the band with a lithe rhythmic dynamism that few others can match. But it's the glorious melodies woven by de facto 'leader' Ohad Benchetrit and Justin Small on guitar alongside the interweaving horn lines of bassist and trumpet player Justin Spearin that has provided the band with its soulful engine, as perhaps most plainly heard on their first album when it was primarily the lifelong members (Spearin, Mitchell, Payment, and Ohad) just jamming out and learning how to play as a hive mind.
Founded in 1995 as a recording project for a Canadian youth dramatic production, the band led early one with a distinctively "spacey" sound as Discogs commenters are quick to observe. And one reason I've always responded ground is that they're sometimes painted as the "druggy" post-rockers, which really means that they'll push the envelope on just what a group of musicians can accomplish as a unt. And especially when listening to the group's first album, which has a track called "Highway 420" on it, this was a band unhurried by the outside world. Hell, it was (and still is) easy to imagine them in a room during the day with the curtains drawn and pot smoke forming a light fog just jamming for hours. What has made them stand out from the countless other narcotic jammers out there ultimately boils down to taste; while having a six- or seven-piece line-up with every instrument possible sounds about like every jamband ever, Do Make were keen on developing their own personal sound, taking tropes from the blues, jazz, and psych rock and applying a truly post-modern mentality. This is a band at home in the studio, something that Ohad and Spearin have turned into day job as they are now an in-demand production duo. And while I had yet to discover the adroit editing of a band like Can or truly understand the role of a Teo Macero in crafting such classics as Big Fun and On The Corner, Do Make's "songs" ultimately sounded like condensed jams; pieces of music that could go on for hours if given the chance, but instead edited down to a digestible five-to-eight minutes.
Of course, as we'll soon see, it's been quite the journey for this band with Ohad and Spearin also going on to play a role in Constellation supergroup (and bona fide indie rock superstars) Broken Social Scene and the band hitting a bit of a soft patch at the end of the 00s, one that has been throughly exorcized on Stubborn Illusions. Since then, the band has reportedly achieved a certain cache with the contemporary emo set, a fact which also goes some way to understanding why the band has never really been viewed as "cool" or come close to receiving the unified critical acclaim of Godspeed You Black Emperor!. For I think many critics end up actually applauding themselves for aligning their ears to the unorthodox and sprawling compositions of GYBE or Tortoise and in turn have undersold a generation of post-rock fans and instrumental music enthusiasts on one of the most emotionally-attuned and sonically savvy bands around. Ultimately, Do Make makes music too smooth and groove-oriented for it to be considered challenging by a lot of critics holding onto outmoded musical ideas. At the same, while Do Make is a throughly melodic band, just like their rhythms they approach writing lead and supporting melodies in an unorthodox, often having the band moving in one direction and a guitar or keyboard casually belting out a ripping melody that doesn't immediately announce itself as palpable, but through sheer repetition works its way into listeners' ears. But this type of nuance has been routinely passed by for the Boredoms' (quite similar but far sprawling ambitious) explorations into groove or GYBE's and Explosion's relatively simple compositional structures (i.e. A->B->C->A->D->E).
Yes, one could argue that albums like & Yet & Yet are somewhat unchallenging in its unrelenting dependence on downtempo or funky waltz-like rhythmic grooves, but I'd counter with the fact that most bands (or critics) simply can't sustain the type of prolonged and ever-sensitive musicality of such a unit. And while we might hold up bands and artists like The JB's, The Meters, and Fela Kuti for doing just that, finding a killer groove and digging into it to unearth the many latent possibilities inherent within musical repetition and expanding our understanding of musical time, we've done so at the cost of canonizing these heart-tugging groove merchants. But missing from the largely positive reviews of Stubborn Persistent Illusions is critical discussion or exploration into the group's seven previous albums on Constellation and an errant EP and tour LP. So since The Wire nor Fact is likely to ever write a primer on this legendary group, I've decided to do just that. Presenting....
Do Make Say Think By the Albums
Do Make Say Think (1997)
As much as I adored DMST, in the early 2000s I was limited by geography and so-so internet and thus my personal Do Make discography started with 2000's Goodbye Enemy Airship. But thanks to the marvels of YouTube and file sharing, I've sense made deep acquaintance with the band's 1997 Constellation debut following an Untitled cassette release in 1996 of which I have yet to obtain a copy, physical or digital.
To be honest, when I finally got to this record some years back, I was surprised by just how-realized their sound was on this, their first official full-length that they originally self-released and Constellation has continued to keep it in print to this day. From the opening noise and jam of first song "1978," we're in vintage early-DMST territory as the band channels a strung-out blues vibe for a solid nine minutes. After about a minute of field recordings and the sound of an airplane or fast car speeding by, the lurching 6/8 beat from Mitchell and Payment comes in and arguably sets the rhythmic template for the group's sound. Their playing is loose but never dragging, blunted but sharp, snare hits roll and echo while the fills are kept to a minimum, which is a hallmark of any great groovesmith. Going back to that "druggy" vibe, one can't help but think of "1978" as a long, extravagant blunt session that fools around with a number of melodic motifs and has moments of distorted rockist posturing. But no one ever takes center stage as Ohad's rhythmic guitar lines give way to a wall of noise that threatens to derail the proceedings as the drums persist to the very end, opening the listener up to the journey to come.
Previously released on the Untitled cassette, "Le'espalace" could be seen as the closest thing this album has to a pop song as it takes a Jefferson Airplane-like desert rock vibe, but imbues it with a genuine warmth that would become the band's hallmark. As Mitchell or Payment keeps the tempo on an open hi-hat, the rest of the band swirl about, riffing on Ohad's pensive and pressing lead hook. "If I Only" returns the band to dystopic blues mode as they sound like they're performing a requiem for the end of the world, the rhythmic keys effected so as to sound like it's being beamed from some alien planet but commanding enough of a crescendo to almost disrupt this otherwise placid jam (a sound and form of musical tension they would explore on later albums.) One thing to note is the prominent role that keyboards and electronics play on this record, played by then-member Jason McKenzie adding a heavenly atmosphere that would later be at least partially assimilated by the band's growing horn section.
"Highway 420" is a smoked-out funk jam that features a prominent guitar tone that sounds like it was ripped straight from a Morricone soundtrack, the band almost coming to a complete halt when it reaches the melody's precipice. It should be noted that Highway 420 is the Ontario Highway connecting Rainbow Bridge and downtown Niagara Falls and the Queen Elizabeth Way. A Canadian friend of mine remarked upon reading this, "In my head having been down that same highway more times that I've had hot dinner it like - to me it doesn't sound like it at all....I'm getting a Highway 401 towards Detroit vibe."
Unlike later albums, this was a band just happy to groove out rather rather than ascend to jaw dropping emotional climaxes or compose multi-part odysseys ; a more planar Do Make, if you will. Continuing the mellow vibe is the muted psych rock of "Dr. Hooch" with a light swing rhythm played on a ride cymbal serving as the song's main thru line for the first three or four minutes as we're left to listen to drawn-out guitar chords that border on navel-gazing until the switch of distortion and a sustained tone gives away to an entirely different groove, which snaps the listener back to life. It's not so much a soft-and-loud dynamic; rather this track introduces a dynamic band which trades in two primary modes, relaxed and propulsive. Suffice to say, it's this very bait-and-switch that makes the song an album highlight.
The band plays a similar trick on "Disco & Haze," introducing a subdued garage rock anthem played at -11. The three chords that form the song's primary foundation slowly come into view until, just when you're getting comfortable, the band launches into a Mogwai-esque distortion fest with some extremely uncharacteristic (and unpleasant) guitar shredding. An errant saxophone helps add a distinguishing feature to this otherwise rote composition, an early example of how Do Make's sheer depth of musical arsenal caused them to stand out from the post-rock also-rans. Following the unusual and delightful synth interlude of "Onions," a piece that could have easily come from the Parry Music Library, the album closes with the nineteen-and-a-half opus "The Fare To Get There" (which was also taken from the '96 cassette release.) If you found that the other songs on this album took on a glacial pace, then you might not exactly dig the five-plus minute guitar drone and synth intro that eventually gives way to a lazy-yet-slick beat that sounds like a sedated version of Massive Attack's "Angel." Behind the reverb-heavy guitar vibrato comes a pensive guitar melody that serves as the song's siren for the second half with heavily delayed flute serving as the song's uncertain climax.
While this is undoubtedly an enjoyable album, those looking for the motional heft of an & Yet &Yet are best to find it there as this is an album of a band truly finding its groove. With a solid rhythm section in place, the music on display here was largely focused around the four-person beating-heart of Benchetrit, Payment, Small, and Spearin (though MacKenzie's contributions are quite palpable). From the guitar fake-outs to the low-slung and interconnected beats, this album set the blueprint for every subsequent album these four would put out over the next twenty years.
Besides EP (1999)
Okay, secret time: before writing this piece, I had never listened to this little-know 1999 EP, which serves as the inaugural release for UK post-rock diehards Resonant Records. And this is definitely the outlier in their catalog as it sees them utilizing electronics in a way they rarely would again and just generally indulging in the flexibility an EP can allow. And indulge they do as Spearin throws down one of his patented feel-good basslines that underpins the manic drum programming and a workaday guitar melody from Ohad on "I Love You (La La La)." Things get considerably more raw on "Bobby Zincone" as the rhythm section keeps the downtempo beats coming but this time with an urgent ferocity met by Ohad's distorted riff (and trust me, Do Make aren't exactly a "riff" band in the Sabbath sense, though this is definitely the closest I've heard them get to that.) Both tracks threaten to become something more than they are, but in the end end up as one-trick ponies.
The "let's try as many things as possible" vibe comes in strong on the B side with "Our Man in Havana" which is a much-more successful synthesis of live drumming with deft drum programming that sounds like it could have come from a Stereolab instrumental B-side. The trip hop-meets-electric-samba beat that opens the song provides a sturdy backbone as the group almost sounds like they're having a bit of (subdued) fun, especially in the sudden cascade of horns that breaks up the groove briefly before "Havana" dances itself to sleep. Closing track "A Week in the Dark" introduces an unfamiliar acoustic guitar into the mix with Ohad channeling a minimalist Fahey while the rest of the band contributes beatless reinforcement, introducing what would soon become their patented delay feature via the electric ripples that envelop the six strings and just a brief cameo from the horns, almost as if the band were trying to remind both themselves and their listeners that they were Musicians-with-a-capital-M. But those soon leave and the song's final minutes see the group showing an adroit sensibility towards the power of silence.
In all, this is a fairly inessential release in a catalog full of must-have's, but for the completist, it shows an almost naive side of the band--which had coalesced into a mean-and-lean six-piece with soon-to-be future member Justin Small joining on guitar. The EP sees them trying new tricks and not exactly making them work. But given what was soon to come, this release becomes less a misstep than an important curio.
Part of the reason their first album was such a surprise for me was that the band's second album (which I heard first) sees them delving far deeper into more beatless ambience and abstracted passages while also reaching emotional heights at which the prior release only hinted. "The Apartment Song" and album-closer "Goodbye Enemy Airship" was recorded at CUIT Radio in December 1998 and the rest of the album was recorded over an August weekend in Jason MacKenzie's barn, Goodbye saw the five-piece emerging a bit from the smokey haze of their first album and taking the first steps towards establishing their unique sonic voice.
"When Day Chokes Night" absolutely lives up to its dramatic title as Ohad at first tremulously and then with more confidence plays the main guitar motif, increasing and decreasing in volume and attack, threatening an onslaught, but of what? The answer comes when less than a second after the guitar stops what can only be described as a flurry of drums enter the mix as the delay muddles the listener's ability to find a downbeat momentarily. This confusion soon dissipates as Mitchell and Payment can be heard just banging the living life out of their drum kits with Spearin attempting to tether them down with a sturdy line while trumpet and saxophone blare atop it all until it just finally stops and once again, we're with Ohad. The song is a stiff rejoinder to any critics at the time that saw the band as perhaps a bit plodding on their debut 2xLP, showing a group that had become considerably more deliberate and adept both playing as a unit and utilizing the studio to enhance their sound. With the exception of the title track, songs generally fall within the more-manageable six-to-eight minute range on this single disc release.
While "Day" leaves the listener at something of an emotional impasse, the upbeat guitar line of album highlight "Minmin" sets the stage for the jolly jaunt that is to follow with the drummers' brushed beat pushing things forward on the two and four and Spearin sitting comfortably in the pocket as the passage begins to gain steam and we hear a band that has grown considerably tighter since we last heard them. Then, just as the band seems to take a step back, the drummers trading snare rolls as a textural sort of fill, Spearin landing on a rhythmic single-note line, Ohad's guitar emitting a percussive rattle that ratchets up the energy...it all just suddenly stops. Then, from out of a bath of effected crash cymbals and guitar is heard a martial snare quarter-note snare hit paired with a quaint yet distinct melody from Ohad's guitar--to this day, a breakdown that might be one of my all-time favorites. And things only get more lovely as the band settles back into the motorik groove that is the song's heartbeat with Ohad plucking out devastatingly-gorgeous sixteenth notes on the guitar, climaxing with the same part echoed on an acoustic guitar and the drums muffled but still banging away until the very last note.
One of the things I've always adored about Do Make is their desire to find slick grooves in usually sticky time signatures, and the lead hook of "The Landlord Is Dead" moves deftly back and forth between a 3/4 waltz and an addendum in 5/4 as the horns take on a more central role in this particular composition, cementing the role the horn section would continue to play on subsequent albums. Once the primary motif has been rinsed thoroughly, the band again takes on their dramatic halts, setting the stage for Ohad to just tear into his main hook for a couple of passes before the rest of the band joins in and utterly demolishes the place, likely due to the moribund landlord. Guitars wail, drums rip, and then it all just stops, though you'll likely be left wanting more. After all, it's on this album that Do Make tapped into their distinct brand of instrumental emotionality as it was no longer left to the individual members to introduce different harmonic ideas into the mix, but rather the six members could be heard working together to create something truly bigger than themselves. Wrapping up the B side is "The Apartment Song," another hallmark DMST blues-waltz that again circles repeatedly around Ohad's repeated melody as snatches of piano and organ enrich the mix, the song ending on a classic fake-out as a pulsing, atonal sixteenth note from the guitar continues to ring out after the other members have ceased playing, hinting at some kind of emotional resolution but instead evaporating into the runout groove.
Opening the album's B-side is a waltz in 7/4 introduced by the twin drummers and soon joined by a lilting horn line and Ohad's infrequent strumming. MacKenzie's contributions on keyboards are a highlight as he lands upon a particularly tasty high note that serves to punctuate the first part of "All Of This Is True." After a brief serenade by the horns, the guitar once again plants itself squarely in the middle of the mix as it becomes the anchor for the drums to lock onto as Spearin comes in heavy with long, sustained notes on the bass. This collapsing of traditional rock hierarchies, something that was endemic to post-rock as a whole, was something that Do Make always achieved with special aplomb. I'll never forget seeing them in 2004 and marveling at the way with which they would exchange roles and instruments as each song required. And the song ends on a confounding note as Spearin and Ohad exit and a recording of a crowd of children gradually overtakes the mix, edging out the tireless drummers. The use of sampling allows for a segueway of sorts to occur as once the detritus of the former song has cleared, Spearin drops the heavy bassline that underpins the oddly funky "Bruce K Kinesis." While the band is safely back on 4/4 territory in this number, the drummers' extra snare hits and swinging rides make it tough for the listener to ever quite settle in, something that the overwrought organ line that soon take over only accentuates. When the drums do return, they do so under a haze of keys before shuffling off into the ether.
We spoke earlier about the tension between "relaxed" and "propulsive" that animates much of the first album, but by the time the listener reaches this album's final track, "Goodbye Enemy Landship," they realize that the two have indeed become one as the languid horns and guitar lines that open the song are soon paired with a wildly inventive, forward-charging beat that does much to get the ball rolling on this epic closer. As one of the drummers hammers out a steady sixteenth-note rhythm on a ride cymbal, it becomes clear that Mitchell and Payment have fundamentally reshaped the way they approach drumming as they no longer seem desirous to melt into each other but rather to achieve the type of intricate drum lines that usually can only be done through overdubbing. I mention this because by doing so, the rhythm section also becomes something of a texture factory, imbuing every note with a percussive force or accent that sees cymbals melting into guitars and snares eat synths as a host of sounds begin to enter the mix and swirl about. Ohad again serves as the group's melodic core, repeating a funk-derived line that gets smudged within an inch of its life under effects, hitting an affective sweetspot that could honestly go on for eternity as far as I care. But after several minutes, Ohad introduces a complementary and far-more crystalline line that serves to reorient the group as they quickly shift gears into a snare-led groove that is both rigid and raucous. As the song enters its final third, a looped guitar chord persistently tugs and pulls at the mix until it becomes the last element standing, symbolizing the central role Ohad's unique guitar playing occupies within the band. For while I have always give much of the praise to the drummers for giving DMST that special rhythmic oomph, it's Ohad's bass-like approach to guitar that really ends up being the paradigm shifter on this album. But if every member is essentially a member of the rhythm section, happy to sit in the pocket while someone else adds a compelling idea to the pot, how do you craft memorable, distinct songs that stand the test of time? It soon turned out the answer to that question was right around the corner....
& Yet & Yet (2002)
No need to mince words as here it is: the best Do Make Say Think album, hands down, in this writer's personal opinion. If one were to look at Do Make's discography and Can's side-by-side, this would be their Tago Mago, their Deceit (to return to the This Heat connection.) An album that synthesizes groove and melody through the collective conduit of a single unit of musicians so attuned to one another and growing increasingly adept at the recording process, as the record's rich textures attest. Bursts of white noise open the album that sound as if one is attempting to tune into the band's frequency using an alien radio until we're beamed into a warm, humid environment that quickly calls to mind the cozy living room den depicted on the cover, its hard geometries threatened by the possible onslaught of raw, untamed nature as embodied in a running river. Or is it just wallpaper?
Either way, & Yet also sees what would become the band's beating heart take form as Justin Small replaced ambience merchant MacKenzie on guitar and would join the other four members (Ohad, Spearin, Payment, and Mitchell) on all of their subsequent albums. It's also worth taking note of the fact that all five are credited as a producer on the album, which also features Brian Cram on horns and the wordless vocalizing of Tamara Williamson.
Starting the album, we instantly land on familiar territory as a swinging rhythm is hammered out on a ride cymbal with an open-and-closing hi-hat providing a light downbeat for Ohad to pluck the paean that opens the wonderfully-named "Classic Noodlanding." As cymbals continue to crash gently and keyboard swells enter the mix, we soon find ourselves out on a jaunt through a spring countryside with the mainly 4/4 melody looping around 7/4 into a rotunda of phrases in 3/8 before circling back, the whole thing sounding gloriously effortless as the band rides out this slightly incongruous groove until around the five minute mark, fading in an echo of the song's horn line before a flurry of digital nose briefly displaces the listener before landing on the light-but-firm downbeat of "End of Music." One of the album's greatest successes is how it integrates the bait-and-switch method of moving from song section to section so seamlessly that the first three minutes or so fly by until a light guitar tone builds and a sudden, growing sixteenth-note fill ushers the listener into the song's volatile second section. Featuring a classic DMST groove, the listener is transported into what can be best described as angular funkthat features one of one of my all-time favorite drum beats, with Mitchell and Payment first letting forth a Teutonic pummel that sees a drummer coming in first on the three and then the one as well (with the other hitting the two and four) to create a heavenly Motown-style stomp as the song crescendos into its bucolic coda as a more syncopated beat that had perhaps been present all along carries the band off into the sunset.
It's hard to talk about & Yet without marveling at the numerous rhythmic Russian dolls it contains, but doing so would be to ignore that this album also features some of Ohad and company's strongest melodies to date. The guitar in a Do Make mix often resembles a melodic bass happy to exist outside of the song's primary rhythm while constructing an interlocking rhythm with a looped phrasing all its own. Rarely using a looping pedal, each pass contains the microscopic musical inflections and stylings that can make an instrumental band like this so compelling. And on "White Light Of," it's indeed the drums that provide the song's most immediate catalyst as a funky break eventually gives way to a dreamy 6/8 groove that opens up onto what would otherwise be considered a mythical middle ground existing in the space between a classical waltz and a Meters-indebted jam session.
Though I don't really know much about DMST fans outside of those who are my friends, "Chinatown" has always seemed to hold a vaunted role in their discography, though at first listen it comes across as a mid-album interlude as a delayed drum click serves as the rhythmic bedding for some especially inspired "noodlanding" by Ohad and metallic atmospherics are projected through a hazy Crema filter. It's no wonder that this has been featured in a number of movies and videos. Sampled voices take over as a Wurlitzer-like four-note melody is slowly faded out before the shimmering opening guitar part of "Reitschule" turns from dawn to dusk, a tense ride cymbal-led groove taking its place as the group embarks on the near-ten-minute trek. One of the things that makes DMST so special is that where other instrumental-focused bands let volume dynamics control the compositional structure, the nuanced and ever-shifting rhythmic backbone provided by the group's drum section allow for songs like "Reitschule" to both be an exercise in dynamics and groove, the rhythm guitar inducing the primary tension here as the group's brief build gives way to an even richer drum-enchanced bedding. This time around, while the rhythm guitar continues to squeeze an insane amount of drama out of three notes, the horns and bass are more pronounced, adding a swirling melodic tornado that clears the pasture for a rare Spearin solo in which he is soon joined by a yearning horn line before that ever-trusty ride cymbal pitches a tent for one last bout of rise-fall-and-regather, this tense storm ending on a lightly hopeful guitar passage.
Fittingly, it's another sturdy yet simple guitar line that is the harmonic engine for the deconstructed dream pop strut of "Soul and Onward." A piano-hammered C note that sounds right out of Terry Riley's famed composition adds a tasteful dose of whimsy alongside a melody sung by Tamara Williamson that hits a hauntingly nostalgic note before the horns enter for what can best be described as the song's cheery chorus. Less patient or sensitive souls could rightfully describe the compositional MO of this album as circuitous, but in this case it's a fitting word in the best sense. For while the band's previous efforts have extended sections that don't always hook the listener on the first or tenth listen, there's a pop-infused undercurrent to the entirety of & Yet & Yet that truly showcases the melodic chops of both Ohad and Spearin. Album closer "Anything For Now" is perhaps the finest crystallization of the band's preternatural sensitivity at balancing sonic and rhythmic textures and patterns that feels. Sounding like a descendent of spiritual soul jazz in the way the band engages in a kind of all-hands-on-deck group maximalism, acoustic guitars, drums, keyboards, and bass each ebb and flow in the mix with a salient geniality; the jam going on long after the long fade-out begins as it sounds like dust quickly collecting under a needle as the band dissolve into the static from which they first arose. They could have stopped here, hired Slint's publicist, and toured off of this album for the rest of their lives. Instead they only got more ambitious, for both better and worst.
An annoying thing about listening to a lot of post-rock is it can instill in the listener a bad habit of reducing songs to the "good," "bad," and "boring" parts, essentially boiling down extended and nuanced passages to qualities that are less layered than some emojis. I for one have been guilty of this and while & Yet is my personal crown jewel, an album with forty-nine straight minutes of all killer, the albums that came after featured a tad more filler as the band turned around and released a follow-up when & Yet was still being digested and spread. That said, I'll never forget the anticipation surrounding this record amongst the post-rock nerds I went to college with, a feeling that felt more than validated by tracks like the unhinged bombast contained within opener "Frederica" or the pop digestible that is closer "Horray! Horray! Horray!" (and yes, that is an extremely accurate title as you will find yourself exclaiming the same thing when you hear it.) But even in songs as emotionally destructive as the two above, gone was the loose perfection of the previous album as certain notes began to feel excessive and particular passages plodding.
Or so it sounded to a naive nineteen-year-old who was in the process of inhaling as much music as could be downloaded and having recently gotten into Fahey. Perhaps it was the less-sophisticated use of acoustic guitar in other post-rock acts like Tarentel and a number of other Temporary Residence bands that escape me at the moment, but between the increased role of that instrument and the heightened looseness found in both the songs and the way the album unfolded, this wasn't the laser-precise groove machine of & Yet & Yet. Nonetheless, I think for many this album represents the last truly momentous album that Do Make released up until Stubborn Illusions and you'll find much of that opinion orbiting around the epic opener. "Frederica" instantly signals to the listener that we're in somewhat uncharted territory, one that feels informed by Americana, the Canadian countryside, and memory as encapsulated in the multiple field recording-aided interludes that dot each of the album's three sections called, you guessed it, "Winter Hymn," "Country Hymn," and " Secret Hymn."
If Godspeed ever released a concept album, then it was like this one, though the actual concept seems buried within the music itself which is even more melodic and textured than on the preceding album, in part due to the expanded line-up that saw the addition of horn player Mr. Jay Baird. "Frederica" hits the listener like a gale force of feelings and longing, opening up on a finger-plucked gem of a melodic phrase that is essentially repeated four times with each pass signaling a slightly different iteration in rhythmic propulsion and harmonic heft. I'll never forget this album coming out the fall of my first year at Grinnell College and listening to it for the first time in a car full of post-rock nerds on our way to see Don Cab in Des Moines. Once the drums came in, the four heads in the car made a collective jolt upwards as the rhythm section crafts a light yet somewhat tribal, floor-tom led funk beat with enough swing to warrant the descriptor of lilting as the drums almost sound like they're singing a two-part harmony. It's on the third pass that things really get interesting as the band introduced their wall-of-sound brand of crescendocore utilizing loud volume and distortion in a way that they had never deployed before concluding on one final pass-through. "War on Want" introduces the first of a series of field recording-based interludes, a sheet of rain pouring down on a metal roof is paired with yearning strings that create momentary tension before dissolving intro the ether. Closing out the first third of the album is the stop-and-start guitar line introduced by Ohad that switches from a dramatic series of chords into a ponderous six-string blues and then to a 4x4-led ramp-up that sees them again switching with ease between a 6/8 blues-waltz and a quasi-warlike snare part. Everything comes together effortlessly in a swirling, chaotic, yet stable and melodically-engrossing storm that soon dissipates into the sound of rain hardening to hail (or hitting a tin or steel roof). It also provides one of the album's most linear, or circular, compositions where much of the other album's tracks are more nonlinear and open-ended both in structure and mood, leaving behind the wistfulness of "Frederica" for a more grainy, almost grim, but always hopeful outlook.
As the band moves from the "Winter" to the "Country," the tone shifts from a familiar warmth to a slightly more unsettled, anxious groove on "Outer & Inner Secret." The band sets off on a lonesome trek, the drums hardening along the lines of a waltz-informed blues that evokes a barren countryside on an overcast, late autumn afternoon--the acoustic guitar that comes into reinforces the lead melody while adding a rustic touch of sorts. But the grey sky soon cracks as the group quickly shifts to the crescendo-based middle section that sees the group building up and dissolving, slowly upping the tension until everything just busts apart but only for a mere fifteen or twenty seconds, robbing the listener of the emotional catharsis that seemed just around on the corner. As Mitchell and Payment lay down a patented sensitive, funky drummer beat, the players regroup, eventually transposing the song's first section over the rolling kits. But first the listener is greeted by a winsome guitar prelude that sets the stage for the emotional turmoil to come as the song resumes its build-and-dissipate dynamic, never quite reaching the heights of a "Frederica," and becoming all the more affective for it, drawing the listener back into the unique world of sound which DMST so carefully crafts. With the rain turning to hail, "107 Reason Why" serves as the album's second interlude, but this time is a more fleshed-out composition that calls to mind a pulse-less "Chinatown," once everyone has gone home for the day and the streets are bare, ending on a hopeful note that the wobbly jazz of "Ontario Plates" picks up on, taking an even more winding and eventful path. Sax and trumpets trade licks over a plaintive Saunier bass lick, painting in broad strokes before tightening their focus and settling upon an uplifting passage that gives way to some of the group's most understated and forceful guitar work with the rhythm guitar gently pushing things forward. The song again ends in bombast, but nuanced, dense bombast that speaks to the group's growing professionalism in mixing the record as each squealing guitar tone and textural ambience gets its moment in the sun until the lights are no more.
Entering the album's last third, it seems like a good time to note that the, well, hymnal nature of the group's fourth release. Just in case anyone forgot since Catholic school, "A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a deity or deities, or to a prominent figure or personification." (Wikipedia) Also, here's your new word for the day: hymnody. It means when a hymn is sung. And while the release does feature the human voice, the instruments take on an increased sense of lyricism and purpose that had been missing in earlier releases. While I never considered Do Make to be a space rock band, their label Constellation does. However, starting with the first release, each Do Make record up until this one is decidedly less free-form in atmosphere and more deliberate in composition and mood. And the album's abstract cover art of a figure staring outside of a vehicle at the passing landscape gives the listener a good idea of just what Do Make are celebrating, which makes sense given the extensive touring that had followed & Yet & Yet with the band growing into an international concern.
The shortest "hymn" is the last and opens with distinction as "Horns of a Rabbit' is met with a meaty synth bass line and a punchy breakbeat, seeing the band freshly animated following the longer, more meandering preceding tracks. Clocking in at a brisk four minutes, brevity does the track well as it's split down the middle into two sections with the second seeing the band pivot from space funk to an urgent, almost Latin-informed beat over which strings bleat and guitars roar and preen, before the tracks short circuits and the hard rain returns. "It's Gonna Rain" provides an on-the-nose title for the last interlude as the percussive downpour becomes resonated, microtones popping up into the air and assembling like a swarm, hovering together for warmth. This synthesizing of rhythm and sonics is the perfect prelude for the album's charmingly maudlin closer, "Horray! Horray! Horray!" A wavy keyboard lays the undulating sixteenth-note melody with an acoustic guitar soon joining in, repeating the passage as horns, flute, and effected strings flutter about before finally joining forces to create an oddly-conventional album closer with a pulsating keyboard melody that helps make this a classic song in the Do Make catalog and what some consider the band's most fully realized album, one that retains the earlier album's naive quality, something that would get lost over the following decade as the band attempted to go from cinematic to IMAX.
A lot can change in four years and where Hymn and & Yet helped usher in my college years, as History came at the end of my time as an undergrad, I had much different tastes as I was just setting out on my decade-plus love affair with dance music. But that didn't keep me from checking out History when it came out that year and while I certainly did so hoping to hear the astral funk and jangly panoramas of their earlier albums, I instead got what felt like a watered-down version of a band I had once loved so much (and continued to always hold the band's first four albums in high esteem, getting copies on vinyl as they appeared in used bins.) Seemingly enthralled with the Americana deftly teased at on the group's previous release, the band traded in the synths for more acoustic guitars and lyrical musicality for actual lyrics. Even with the credits see us returning to the five-person unit of Spearin, Mitchell, Payment, Staples, and Ohad as the group's primary performers, the credits for the album see piano, vibe, violins, and saw players joining the mix alongside a group of vocalists that include Akron/Family. Let's get this over with.
"Bound To Be That Way" reintroduces the listener to a number of a familiar and beloved DMST tropes--a high-flying drum part, Ohad's organic melodic sensibility--but rather than being a grand return to form, the song's few strong elements flounder when served on top an undercooked composition. The less said about "A With Living" the better as it sees the band giving lyric-based songwriting a try and not having a whole lot of success with it as while they have no problem crafting a compelling melody, their voices simply do not have the depth or familiarity to really sell it. Kicking off with an adrenaline-pumping start-and-stop passage, the song sets sailing along emoting guitars and busier-than-usual drums and while it's an admirable attempt at recapturing the puffed-chest vulnerability of "Frederica," the song's inability to stay in one mode long enough keeps the listener at an uncomfortable distance.
Resembling a post-folk collage, "A Tender History at Rust" is at least an interesting attempt to do something totally new for the band. Again employing lyrics, this time they are sung in a more free manner better befitting these sensitive souls, but the layered acoustic guitars fail to introduce anything truly enticing from a musical point of view. Employing an 11/8 time signature, "Herstory of Glory" is easily the high point here for fans of the group's earlier work as it sees them in an unusually tight formation that Hymns had seemed to render passé. Te deceptively traditional bass line and drum beat that open the song gracefully blossom alongside heart-tugging horn pulses and a slippery melody that doesn't so much peak as rise and fall into a parallel groove that smoothly takes them home. And on that high note, we'll leave this album as the rest of the record tends to feel like listening to a lesser band giving a poor attempt at sounding like Do Make (though I will say "Executioner's Blues" features perhaps the most uncomfortable climaxes in the band's repertoire). Let's just not.
Note: As this album saw the band touring extensively, they released a tour EP for the Japanese leg of their travels entitled The Whole Story of Glory that despite containing two unreleased songs, is mostly a collection of greatest hits that, for the sake of brevity, we are going to bypass.
Other Truths (2009)
As you might be beginning to notice, I definitely fell off as a DMST fan for quite some time, so much so that I didn't even know this record had been released until a few years back. And seeing it at a light four tracks with the titles "Do," "Make," "Say," and "Think," not to mention the Broken Social Scene-esque cover art was enough to keep my curiosity at bay. Upon listening to the album, especially after spending quite a bit of time with Hymn and History, one is immediately struck by Ohad's clear guitar tone and left momentarily wondering that perhaps this album will see the return of the lean, mean groove machine a the focus seems to be primarily on the interplay of the five members. That said, the presence of Akron/Family once again in the vocals department was again a bit of a red flag. But with a more economical instrument palette, perhaps the band could re-capture the lightning-in-the-bottle that was & Yet & Yet's one-of-a-kind synthesis of musicality and studio acumen, right?
Nope. "Make" finds the group returning to more familiar rhythmic ground through Payment and Mitchell's swing-heavy downbeat suggest a bevy of latent possibilities that never fail to materialize as the composition follows a dully linear structure that can be summarized as soft->loud. What's more remarkable is that in revisiting this song after taking in the revigorating new album, the band essentially lifts out the maximalist dub stylings of the rhythms on "Make" but pairs it with an infinitely more creative and engaging composition for second track "Horripilation." Yeah, there's a reason no one talks about this record and it's evident the second Ohad's opening riff on "Do" is paired with a shockingly conventional, almost 80s-derived rhythm guitar line; the band tries on a number of new rhythmic style and melodic techniques over the course of the album's learn forty-three minute runtime and they just simply do not work. "Do" is really a perfect encapsulation of all that's off with this release as no ten-minute-plus instrumental song should be centered around a riff that could have come from Sunny Day Realty or another power-pop-informed emo group from the 90s. As you can imagine, this unusually charged, almost aggressive environment makes for an awkward fit with the horns, which for the first time ever on a Do Make record sound utterly superfluous. Even the way the song follows the classic Do Make fade-and-burn as it winds down feels off as you don't feel like you've really been engaged for the prior seven or eight (or forty) minutes.
OK, so that was kind of a dreary exercise that I had to breeze through because what followed this album was eight years of radio silence, during which the members pursued a number of different projects, including Spearin and Ohad's continued involvement with the Canadian post-rock-post-pop-rock indie super group Broken Social Scene. It's hard not to conjecture that their time in that increasingly-bloated and over-ambitious project led to their own muddling of vision heard on You, You and Other Truths. Small joined the Scene on tour sometimes in the guise of his Lullabye Arkestra project with partner Katia Taylor on drums and bass. And Spearin and Ohad stayed busy beyond BSS with Spearin's "The Happiness Project" that collected a series of interviews with his neighbors being nominated for the Polaris Prize in 2009 while Ohad released an album that same year with his band Years. Nonetheless, this decade has seen little in the way of communiqués from the band, which reunited for the Constellation Fifteen Year Anniversary Show in 2012. Since then, the band had been reported to be working on new music until their label teased a brief clip early last spring of a new album that shows that sometimes taking a bit of downtime can result in releasing an album that reaches the heights of a band's greatest achievement.
To be honest, I was originally pushing myself to get this piece done by May 19 to coincide with the release date of the album, but that would have meant skipping over this, their timely return to glory. The band's five core members are joined by another raft of guests, but as they consist of trumpet, baritone sax, and violin players, it's clear that the band is returning to the sonic palette that worked so well for them up through Winter Hymn. And that album's opener comes to mind almost instantly as "War on Torpor" features Do Make at their most turnt-up with an amphetamine-focused bombast meeting a nonlinear prog-rock song structure that gets me swooning for all five-and-a-half minutes. A rumble of loosely-tuned strings is joined by a Wurlitzer-sounding organ that hammers out the eight notes around which the song's whirlwind of a first section rotates. I should note that what's so melodically-compelling here, especially within the greater context of the group's discography, is that while previous albums would likely have seen them sticking to the pensively-hopeful first four notes, they raise the ante by coupling it with an ascending four notes that places this album on decidedly optimistic ground. Just to hear the blistering guitar and frantic drums that provide the bedrock for Ohad to unleash what becomes one of the best thirty-second passages in the whole damn catalog is worth the price of admission alone. The lead guitar smoothly unleashes two piercing notes between which it moves back-and-forth to an utterly devastating effect (just listening to it right now, I had to take a two-minute cry break as they hit upon a visceral emotionality that left me literally screaming "THAT'S WHAT THE FUCK IS UP" the first time I heard it in that fateful car ride.)
And this being Do Make in prime form, they soon abandon this early-song climax two minutes in to pave the way for a blinding 3/8 beat hammered out and improved upon by the Mitchell and Payment partnership (I love these drummers, I really do.) It soon shifts to a waltz-like 4/4 that incorporates elements of jangle pop replete with glockenspiel, but only briefly as the band keeps the listener on their feet throughout as they weave through minor chord, ominous passages and back out into the light so deftly that once that guitar line from the song's first section lies itself atop a synthesized groove that pulls together all of the song's preceding rhythms and motifs until they mercifully stop mid-crescendo, saving this listener from a manic episode. Things turn down a notch with the opening strums of "Horripilation" that sees the band returning to a laid-back jazz-dub that's redolent of Other Truths' "Make" but utterly obliterates that far-inferior composition from beginning to end. Around the two-minute mark, the band hits upon a dream pop-derived melody that they pair with an undulating piano line that would make Phillip Glass shed a tear. The band soon moves on from this cheery plateau to more cavernous sounds and a more driving beat over which Ohad again steals the show with a melody that fits awkwardly-yet-perfectly over the band's 4/4 groove, which glides along in new and exciting ways for a full ten minutes that never once grow old.
"A Murder of Thoughts" is a downtempo strut through an alternative West World, all steel guitars and lethargic plucking and stretches out that groove for a near-six minutes, threatening to pick up into double time but never making good on it to create a lovely slice of Americana-derived, drum-fueled ambience. The horns that enter on the last crescendo burst subtly hammer home the wanderer-in-the-countryside vibe before field recordings of swings being swung without the sound of a child cast a precious and unsettling vibe that allows for the poppy, Explosions-lite strumming and preening of "Bound" to come into a view, like the band is playing on the hills where the Teletubbies run free. Of course, Do Make was never the kind of band to indulge in this kind of overly-maudlin strain of post-rock for too long--indeed, it's just one of a countless array of different instrumental styles and genres that the band skip across and make sly allusions to on a song-by-song basis. And like any good Do Make song, this one soon turns on a dime into a grizzled, burly man kind of funk, the kind that sounds like David Axelrod could have crafted if he had run with the Earth Rot shtick. Once the band has played through the phrase in entirety once, they settle back into their stargazing mode so that when they return to the groove there's an oscillating, two-note keyboard line resting in the back, reminding the listener why this band often has the "space" descriptor in front of their brand of rock. Not content to sound, well, too content on this album they soon unleash a caterwauling wall of screeching guitars that adds an additional animating element carrying the song to its eroding end.
Or so it sounds before what best be described as guitar-made, buzzing siren alerts provide the rhythmic framework for rumbling drums and a shaky Wurlitzer stab to form the basis for the blistering counterpart of a composition that is "And Boundless." Do Make have always used this kind of machine-gun delay, but normally as a flourish or effect, not the primary hook. As the Wurlitzer creeps up the scale and things escalate, the bottom drops out and we're left with Ohad's plaintive guitar passage that is soon coupled with a light backbeat and more percussive organ texture. Things slowly go widescreen, the group rising and falling but always grooving up until the song's end which brings back the burley man funk and pitch-bent guitar wilds of "Bound." The sounds of school children scurrying about is paired with an usually stoic tom-and-ride-led beat before "Her Eyes on the Horizon" lets forth its James Taylor-indebted folk rock funk which pushes and pulls to an early rise that leaves a glowing wake in its wake. Chanted voices greet playful drums and are eaten by horns for an extended fade-out that at the five-minute-mark sees the group flip on a hyper-charged jazz-waltz strut, ending each phrase with a blistering exclamatory mark before finally the stop-and-start resolves into a more fluid jam. Here we really are again met with the tighter-than-hell Do Make of & Yet and the emotional explosiveness of Hymns, the composition both fading out and fighting against the dying light until a brief drone leads us to the lush Van Dyke Park-isms that open the album's final third, "As Far As The Eye Can See."
Soon though, the band descends into a post-samba two-step against which Ohad churns out a supremely wistful, melancholic melody. The the band takes flight in classic fashion, juxtaposing their 4/4 beat with an uneven phrase that sees the band slip briefly into an uncomfortable half-time before ascending once more until they fade out of vision with a Morricone-derived sense of tone. The increasingly-cinematically-minded album then takes a much-needed breather on "Shlomo's Son," a guitar and saloon piano duet that is soon joined by a pointed beat and the ghosts of strings past, making for an oddly comforting and hauntological listen. Switching from hauntology to hypnagogia, the tuneful 80s shredding that arises out of the not-so-distant horizon upon which our heroes stand triumphantly, wailing out an epic victory song "Return, Return Again." Deploying the funky swing like only they know how, a truly blinding guitar line takes centerstage, leading the band through a vaguely Renaissance Faire-sounding passage that combines a 70s power pop melodic sensibility (and sensitivity). Horns enter and leave, letting the five members do what they do best: groove onwards unto the dying lights, head high yet burdened. Except one last curveball: an album requiem of sorts that recasts the breathtaking melody of "War on Torpor" as a John Williams-esque, trailer-ready slice of cinematic orchestral stylings. That they can end on such a bizarre and haunting note is only a testament to their continued relevance and increasingly vaunted status.
And lastly, since no one asked, here is the DMST discography ranked from best to least-preferred....
1. & Yet & Yet
2. Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn
3. Stubborn Persistent Illusions
4. Goodbye Enemy Airship The Landlord Is Dead
5. Do Make Say Think
6. You, You're A History in Rust
7. The Believer EP
8. Other Truths