Post Louis on Do Make Say Think

We’re very lucky to welcome art rockers Post Louis to the barrier. The band, featuring ex-members of Cajun Dance Party, release their debut album on 28th February 2020.

In the latest instalment of our Why I Love feature, Post Louis’ guitarist, violinist and producer Robbie Stern, writes about his love of Canadian instrumentalists Do Make Say Think.

‘I’ve just bought this amazing new record by a band with two drummers.’ This was my introduction to Toronto-based instrumental group Do Make Say Think, by my best friend on a school coach trip. We were 14. He handed me both headphones so I could experience the new purchase on his Discman in stereo, and I listened to the opening bars of the song ‘Classic Noodlanding’.

The play button sparks three reversed snare sounds that build to a lilting ride cymbal pattern with the softest of accents in the kick-drum. It sounds like a jazz record for 13 seconds until Ohad Benchetrit’s guitar enters with the most skeletal of figures: a descending minor arpeggio with the bottom note dropping a semi-tone to add a shade of darkness. It is both blissed out and creepy, and was unlike anything I’d ever heard before. I was immediately transfixed by those opening bars and have been ever since. 

The Do Makes have remained my go-to artists for whenever I need something healing. I can listen intently for the tiny details or stick them on in the background: somehow I never feel that I’ve over-listened or that the soundscapes have become bland. It’s hard to know to what to attribute this, but its likely the economy of the group’s arrangements. Unlike so many other instrumental groups, DMST generate size and scale through insistent repetition and propulsive rhythm rather than superadded instruments and reverb. Maybe this is what led Broken Social Scene frontman Kevin Drew to conclude “the Do Makes slowly killed the ideology of playing instrumentals for me … I was just so close to them and they do it so well”.

With 2017’s Stubborn Persistent Illusions marking their seventh record, there’s a depth and range to their discography. I love all of it: the gentle Fender Rhodes swells on 1999’s ‘If I Only…’ from their self-titled debut, the groove of ‘Frederica’ from 2003’s Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn, the pastoral sweep of ‘Herstory of Glory’ from You You’re A History In Rust (2007).

But its & Yet & Yet (2002) that is most special for me. Its hard to say where that record reaches its apex – standout moments include the huge distorted middle section of ‘End of Music’ and Charles Spearin’s circling bass patterns in ‘Reitschule’. Perhaps most moving of all is the penultimate track ‘Soul and Onward’, where the unexpected addition of Tamara Williamson’s lyric-less vocals somehow evokes melancholy, yearning and redemption all at once.

I’ve been lucky to see them perform twice: rocking out to an empty tent at Field Day in 2013 when I was playing with Fryars, and playing to a packed Electric Ballroom for a start-to-finish rendition of their second and darkest record Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead the previous year. The schoolfriend who first showed them to me came down but was disappointed: “I should have kept them as a headphone band, they really should have tuned their guitars before they started”.

For me, it was an astonishing performance – the rough edges ratcheting up the intensity and casting the music in a new, more threatening light. I tried to capture some of this in the production of the opening track of Post Louis’ second EP, an instrumental called ‘Faculty’. I’d first started sketching this instrumental out years before while on tour with my teenage band Cajun Dance Party – a testament to how DMST have been a constant source of inspiration and comfort for all these years.

Many thanks to Post Louis for taking the time to write about Do Make Say Think.

Descender is released on February 28th 2020.

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