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Fourth album from the Toronto instrumental post-rockers Do Make Say Think, who were recommended to me as "more interesting than Godspeed You Black Emperor". There's certainly similarities in their North American dusty landscaping, and they're just as inventive in mingling acoustic instruments with the rock sound, while Do Make Say Think's music is more chilled, down-to-earth, and even slightly jazzy. But as someone who's currently absorbed in the cinematic soundscapes of "Lift Yr. Skinny Fists", I won't state a firm preference.
There's plenty of personality, right from the start of "Fredericia", as a spooky bass throb gnaws away at some pastoral guitar noodling. The bass grows into a perpetual-motion riff that holds this great piece together. Most distinctively they have a real love of percussion - here a separate tom-tom beat patters away breathlessly alongside the main drummer. With impeccable dynamic control, it builds up to an exhilarating peak as a distorted guitar enters. Oddly, it's something like a rock version of a clockwork groove by downbeat electronists Lemon Jelly.
The extended pieces are joined by little instrumental vignettes, vaguely like This Mortal Coil, and all with their own character. The delay-effected violins of "War on Want", and the keening trumpet and violin piece "107 Reasons Why", give more glitter to head-to-the-floor, assertive post-rock pieces like "Auberge le Mouton Noir". This one makes you wonder what Pink Floyd would have been like in their jamming days if they had a more forward drummer.
"Outer Inner and Secret" takes a while to warm up, meandering for the first three minutes. Then they hit on the idea of playing with pure dynamics in the middle, just one chord ebbing and flowing away. These crescendos were just on the point of being gimmicky, when they pick up the groove again based on this chord. It builds up to a climax in the manner of Floyd's "Echoes", topped off by an apocalyptic pair of trumpets.
They're at their most jazzy on "Ontario Plates". The cool interplay between a breathy sax and trumpet reminds me of recent laid-back jazz albums by the Dave Holland Quintet. The drums are still perpetually twitching away, and again it fattens up to a big crescendo based on an insistent guitar riff. Melancholy acoustic guitar arpeggios start off "Hooray Hooray Hooray" like something by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, before some slide guitar twangs take it into an utterly mellow, pastoral Americana.
Great instrumental music with a twist, recommended particularly if you find Godspeed too po-faced or doom-laden.
August 10, 2005