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Do Make Say Think
Other Truths Matt Cox , October 20th, 2009 10:11

Post-rock once promised so much. A glorious new noise, taking influence from jazz, Latin funk, even chamber music, this was supposed to be what came after the clichés of rock'n'roll, lifting us from the mire of grunge and Britpop. Ironic, then, that today, as the musical fruits fall ever closer to the tree, this has become one of the most hidebound of genres, the term now little more than shorthand for folks who have replaced the vocalist with a penchant for Explosions in the Sky.

Do Make Say Think have always been one of the few bracketed into the post-rock scene who have consistently stood out, thanks in no small part to their euphoric live shows, but also due to the sense that with each of their previous five albums they have attempted to explore new avenues while never turning their back on their initial template. Never content with a simple guitars/bass/drums line-up, the relatively minimal, dubby jams of Do Make Say Think steadily gave way to the warm, horn-drenched textures of Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn and You, You're A History In Rust.

With this, their sixth album, one difference that is immediately apparent is the abandonment of the abstruse verbosity of their song titles (itself, of course, now something of a post-rock touchstone). Gone are such previous mouthfuls as 'Outer Inner and Secret' or 'Goodbye Enemy Airship': instead, the four tracks revel in the moniker’s constituent words 'Do', 'Make', 'Say' and, inevitably, 'Think'. Although this might imply a lack of imagination, this simplicity is, if anything, more suggestive, allowing the listener to infuse the music with their own interpretations.

It is fitting, then, that 'Do' is the most active piece on the record, its plangent intertwining guitars giving way to a muzzy bassline that, in its turn, ushers in a tentatively expectant riff that recalls 'Horns of a Rabbit' from Winter Hymn... This expectancy is heightened by wordless chanting courtesy of the Akron Family and Lullabye Arkestra, and finally satisfied by soaring horns. Job done, 'Do' subsides into a murky drone, punctuated by the sonar ping of a xylophone.

The opening of 'Make' is closer to Goodbye... era material, but possessed of a more restless intent. Note by note, guitar lines are augmented and strengthened, building steadily to an ever-deferred crescendo, before resuming to a subtly altered blueprint. The ebb and flow is that of a construction site, each minor flurry contributing to a complex edifice, whilst the ritualistic vocals are redolent of some grand temple. The dust settles on a low, burnished metallic hum and a final, celebratory flourish of horns.

'Say' announces its presence with an insistent guitar so fuzzed it sounds like a foghorn, heralding a chattering tapestry of off-kilter polyrhythms. This is finally laid to rest in a cradle of woozy chords and wearily quizzical guitar lines, the instruments' queries answered by a soothing, inchoate lullaby. Closer 'Think' is by far the most restrained track on the album, with brushed percussion held low in the mix, shuffling between spare, somnolent chords. A querulous, Ry Cooder-esque guitar brings light to the ponderous gloom, akin to the last recollections of a weary sleeper, reviewing the day's events with an increasingly tired mind.

If there is to be a gripe about Other Truths, it is that there is less of a progression from its forebears than that found on previous offerings. Instead, the album is a refinement of prior practice, with established sounds and structures being polished almost to flawlessness. This could be seen as reflecting a band reaching a creative impasse, with the will to innovate supplanted by a cosy comfort with that which has gone before. This is a fear that will surely be resolved by future albums, however; for now, it would be churlish to complain about so engaging and engrossing a record.