By Alec Warkentin
While Canada has a rich and diverse history of musical expression, few genres are so indebted to our cold, northern climate as post-rock, and Montreal’s Constellation Records have been at the forefront of the often scoffed-at niche for so long that no other label even really comes close.
Sure, there are other ‘big’ instrumental groups, ones that have managed to grace film scores and art installations alike, but none are so deserving of their due as Do Make Say Think, and Stubborn Persistent Illusions — the collective’s first record in eight years — isn’t so much another fitting transplant into the swell of Canada’s post-rock repertoire as it is a life-affirming appreciation of the expressive power of sound in its purest form.
As though brimming with energy from their almost-decade away, Do Make Say Think open up Stubborn Persistent Illusions with “War on Torpor,” a five-and-a-half minute anthem of panicked percussion, fired off with a frenetic urgency reminiscent of the crescendoing buildups of 2000’s Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead.
From there, “Horripilation” slips in as the Yin to “Torpor’s” Yang, showcasing the archetypal Do Make Say Think: sliding bass lines as addictive as any earworm, brief reposes of crystalline flittering held together by the puncture of drum-strikes, and enough turns to keep from dragging out its emotional stay, before slipping in ceaselessly to the shuddering “A Murder of Thoughts.”
But the tides of Stubborn Persistent Illusions find no break on the shores of a lacklustre middle ground, instead only being amplified on “Bound” (along with its sister-track “And Boundless”) resulting in a bombastic expression of ephemera, pent-up emotion, left-field signature-switches and sheer rhythm as it rushes ahead undeterred.
The first two tracks released from Stubborn Persistent Illusions, “Bound” and “And Boundless,” represent some of the strongest, most rhythmically jarring, and downright exciting sound-shifts since “Mladic,” from fellow Constellation label-mate Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Polaris-prize winning album ‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! in 2012 (another track forged from extended hiatus and triumphant return).
The latter half of the album finds the instrumental group honing their introspective skills, and from the placid “Her Eyes on the Horizon” through to the hopefully melancholic “Return, Return Again,” the group further explores the swelling, humming fragility found across many of the records from Constellation’s stellar roster.
In their eight year absence, Do Make Say Think have managed to reinforce their sound without stagnation, returned to familiar rhythms without relying on tropes, and Stubborn Persistent Illusions strikes down the notion that instrumentalists offer nothing but lackadaisical ambiance.Constellation Records, Do Make Say Think, Stubborn Persistent Illusions