Hard to believe it’s been eight years since Do Make Say Think’s most recent album, “Other Truths,” was released in 2009. This time they reemerge with “Stubborn Persistent Illusions,” a dynamic and powerful release in the canon of the now legendary instrumental band. In an age when “post-rock” has in many ways become stagnant and overused, Do Make Say Think proves again that they can create a record both familiar and fresh, pushing the status quo of the genre and exploring new ideas in the process.
The 9-track “Stubborn Persistent Illusions” provides plenty of room for discovery. Clocking in at over 10 minutes, “Horripilation” is an explosive movement of drums and guitars that surprises at every turn. “A Murder of Thoughts” begins with the slow roll of drums and steel guitar, evoking night journeys in a western desert, not a living soul in sight. Listening in relative solitude, I wonder if the song is a reference to a group of crows, which is a called a “murder.” Though I’m not sure of the reference, I can easily imagine a murder of crows being present in the song’s narrative, watching as our hero walks through the abyssal plain of the mind.
The band makes their instrumental mastery known throughout the album, especially with the beautiful guitar work at the beginning of “Bound.” The riffs feel as if they are floating in the midst of a light atmosphere of clouds before suddenly descending into the heavy roll of drums and dark guitar. Before we know it, we emerge into weightlessness again, getting a glimpse of sky before falling again into the rolling rhythm with a screaming guitar singing our collapse.
Moving into “And Boundless,” I begin to understand what it is to feel that way. After a hard entrance that blends the pounding of drums with the sound of a screaming organ, the song begins to peel away the layers. The organ recedes to a rolling guitar line as the drums match the new rhythm. By the halfway mark of seven-minute track the whole scene is rising. What sounds like a bass slides up as the guitars become almost devotional in their riffing. Then the warm choir emerges from behind, draping and enveloping everything as I began to feel boundless myself. Can music be so powerful as to change the state of our minds?
Final track “Return, Return Again” spirals in lines of guitar, circulating and reflecting upon itself as it spins backwards and forwards. Snare rolls come in as each instrument plays off each other in fractured rhythm before suddenly exploding into an ecstatic meeting of sound. Here Do Make Say Think pulls us toward a sky of cinematic emotion, horns and guitars meeting as we rise and rise and rise in the sort of inspirational moment handcrafted for the movies. Do Make Say Think are masters of pulling us in a thousand different directions throughout “Stubborn Persistent Illusions,” stretching our minds as songs collapse and intertwine, and in proper fashion the song drops away as the album ends in a yearnful ambience.
Despite the well-known tropes and styles of post-rock, Do Make Say Think have shown themselves to be a band more than capable of transcending the genre’s pitfalls. After 8 years away, they’ve even pulled a few new tricks out of their sleeve. The songs on “Stubborn Persistent Illusions” weave and twinkle together like a canvas freshly painted, scenes shifting as they move in and through each other. When they’re at their best, Do Make Say Think don’t give us the immediate gratitude we expect, instead urging us to listen and re-listen until we discover the album over and again, finding the connections and ideas shared between songs. Perhaps that’s why by the end of the album we are urged to “Return, Return Again.”