Approaching Post-Rock with a strictly critical eye is tricky for me. As a whole, I have felt the six full-length albums of Do Make Say Think more than I have actively listened to them. The band has a way of crafting slow-building songs centered around several separate instrumental movements that coalesce in a crescendo that borders on religious catharsis. There is a rapturous, glorious, quasi-spiritual movement through the entire Do Make Say Think catalog. Returning two years after releasing their greatest album to date, You You are a History in Rust, Do Make Say Think stick largely to the script, sculpting textured sonic landscapes of hope-filled power chords, heralding trumpets and a patience that lets the songs build up to their absolute breaking point, then selling it all on an incredible climax.
With each successive release there is an aspect that sets a new Do Make Say Think album apart from its predecessor. For example, their self-titled debut is by far the most jazz/dub influenced album they have released; Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead saw the introduction of a ruddy baritone saxophone; You You are a History in Rust saw the introduction of vocals, etc. Now, ten years later, their sixth release, Other Truths is largely an extension and a culmination of those themes. The album consists of four tracks, titled simply: “Do,” “Make,” “Say,” and “Think.” Three of these clock in at over ten minutes. The first track “Do” is by far the most hurried and straightforward track they have ever produced. It seems like a stark departure for a band that lets songs build slowly for seven or eight minutes until things really start getting heavy. The song starts with a simple guitar line that is repeated throughout the entire song before a slightly more distorted riff is piled on top, something like mid-tempo Mogwai. These lines are repeated until Do Make Say Think’s celebrated polyrhythmic, dual-drumming frenzy guides the track at a breakneck pace for the next six minutes. A few breakdowns are conservatively placed, but the track is propelled heavenward by a furious backbeat courtesy of drummers Dave Mitchell and James Payment.
“Make” is a classic Do Make Say Think slow burner. Starting with an ominous guitar line, the drums roll over their beats like they were stumbling home drunk. Each step has an awkward extra half step or slight hiccup before slowly building into a tribal backbeat as surging synths build from deep beneath the audible surface. Vocals from the Akron/Family chant in a strange mixture of Yiddish lullaby/Avett Brothers vocal harmonies. The track is most reminiscent of fellow Canadian post-rock bands A Silver Mt. Zion and, Charles Spearin side project, Valley of the Giants. “Make” is the first track on the album to showcase their seriously beefed up horn and woodwind section, which announce themselves in bombastic bursts of ecstatic revelry that drive the song into the most dizzyingly climactic crescendos.
The timing on this album is impeccable. After a straight-up barn burner of an ending on “Make,” “Say” is introduced as a type of Edward Burtynsky photograph or Akira Kurosawa film; while it is easy to get lost in the grandeur of the whole, each detail emerges slowly with repeated viewings/listenings. “Say” is by far the most instrumentally complex track, full of twisting peaks and valleys, several song arcs, tempo shifts and acoustic break downs. The song is largely held together by a type of floor-staring somberness of eight musicians locked in an elegiac communion with the infinite. Somber horns bleat out like a dirge while all acoustic instruments (guitars, banjos, slide guitars) are bowed and bent like drooping heads of wheat. Rising from the lament comes a chiding, hopeful braid of vocals by DMST side project Lullabye Arkestra. The last track “Think” is a fitting coda to the album, an eight-minute ode to the project these friends started ten years ago. Built around two guitars and drums, “Think” serves as rumination on the history of the band and, perhaps, the Canadian post-rock movement as a whole.
Other Truths as an album is much like Do Make Say Think as band—easy to love, harder to explain why. Albums like these are meant to be felt. Both self evident and cryptic, blissful and somber, cacophonous and restrained, Do Make Say Think do not show their hand on first listen. Several thorough listens and you get what they are doing, but nothing can replace that moment when the first swell and burst of sound penetrates you to the core. This album will destroy you.