I’m now two weeks late in delivering my opening statements on Do Make Say Think’s Stubborn Persistent Illusions, out since May on Constellation Records and the instrumental giant’s first record proper in some eight years. Why? The thing will leave you that perplexed. Is it the group’s greatest offering, a worthy addition to the canon or simply a post-hiatus afterthought? Does it make you want to shake your head in wonder? Will it slink? Well, Your Honor, respectively: no, yes, no, yes and yes. These illusions are enveloping, wondrous things and, yes, sure, we’ve come to expect that from everyone’s favorite abstract verbs. But, while the new record doesn’t quite measure up to titans like Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn or & Yet & Yet, even when these guys are firing on three-quarters or four-fifths of their cylinders they blow away much of what lies in their wake.
So, here it is. Most likely would argue that Do Make Say Think is a wet dream, if not a vehicle, for four- and six-string aspirants. And, sure sure, it’s true, the guitar and bass work throughout the band’s catalogue — let it be read into the court record: the new record is definitely no exception — is mesmerizing, hyper-texturized stuff. But on the throttling album-opener ”War on Torpor,” it’s drummers David Mitchell and James Payment who shine, adding a throbbing, bass-drum-kicking threnody to the song’s underbelly. It makes you want to shout about it. The guitars soar, yes, yes, but the drums punch you in the gut. Such is also the case with the duo ”Bound” and ”And Boundless,” which break between tracks at precisely the right point.
On tracks like the juicy, triumphant epic ”Return, Return Again” — if these guys don’t close live sets with this rafter-shaker, I don’t know what they’re thinking — it’s the jazzy shuffle and steadfast plod of the drums that accents the guitar weaving so well. There’s not a moment on the disc where the percussion gets lazy or even mildly predictable. And that’s saying a lot — because not everyone can be Britt Walford or Damon Che or Zach Hill.
On ”Horripilation,” though, the guitars steal all that percussive thunder, offering sleepy, half-tipped-hourglass measures and pulsing micro-crescendos accented, subliminally, by what sounds like horns. Riveting stuff. Or there’s the atmospheric ”As Far As The Eye Can See,” which darts among gently gushing post-rock (serious Mogwai vibes here), a rocking, locked-groove drive and Spaghetti Western guitar-noodling.
All in all, Stubborn Persistent Illusions is a worthy addition to the canon of a band that’s been dormant for far too long. They might have clapped their loudest thunder in the 90s and aughts and this is not the group’s finest. But it’s certainly great stuff. And that’s enough for me. It should be for you, too. Verdict: guilty of being too damned engaging for its own good.