OK, are there any Broken Social Scene Fans out there?
Anybody? Can I get a (very Canadian) woop woop?!
If the answer is yes, you are probably aware of the fact that a few of the (many) members of the post-rock ensemble have some pretty stellar side projects. You might also be aware that a couple have in turn released solo records (Kevin Drew & Feist, for example). What you might not know is that a particularly super stellar side-project has just released their first album in 8 (that’s right eight!) years –
it is awesome.
Bold statement, I know. But trust me on this.
Broken Social Scene is my jam (woop woop! guilty). From way back. I’m a big fan of the ambient, instrumental and ethereal Canadian rock. And when the composition is melodic, dynamic and compelling…nothing better. Up there with the likes of Arcade Fire, Stars, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Death Cab – these guys just live to produce interesting, super chill rock. So it’s not surprising that a few of the band’s consistent contributors have just put out a record that utterly encompasses the meaning of
Story goes that the Toronto-based group’s earliest rehearsals (circa 1995) took place in an empty elementary school room as they prepared to record for a Canadian youth drama production. Written on the walls inside the room were the four verbs “do”, “make”, “say”, “think” –
Adopting the elementary mantra as their namesake, the band went on to release 7 (I believe self-produced) records with the assistance of Montreal based Indie label Constellation Records.
DMST records (in their own words) “are marked by a fiercely independent approach to self-production that is re-imagined for each release, but which always remains the band’s own…”. Yep, pretty cool. Heading the production team are core members Ohad Benchetrit (how cool is this guy? I mean, the name alone…), Charles Spearin (name also cool – both of whom are contributors to Broken Social Scene) and Justin Small. Together with David Mitchell and James Payment, these dudes weave some pretty intricate soundscapes. And they do so without falling victim to dramatic over-instrumentation or experimental cliché.
I love when a band stays true to its artistic vision. Do Make consistently delivers wandering, dynamic, multi-layered and satisfyingly serene sonic narratives. The songs are like little adventures.
Or like marathons.
As contributing Pitchfork author Jay Balfour notes. With it’s repetitive themes, interludes and proverbial “home stretch”, Balfour quite accurately likens “Horripilation” to the long distance race in his very eloquently penned review of the band’s latest release here. At 10 minutes and counting, some of the tracks are journeys in themselves, to say the least.
With 7 records released over 20 years, DMST has most certainly coined a signature sound. Tinkering, dabbling, exploratory – cascading into lush, voluminous scores – dynamically building, then subsiding to a close. It’s all there.
& Yet & Yet is quite good. And I really like You, You’re a History in Rust.
But there’s something about this 7th album –
it just… plays. And so easily. It’s as if you don’t even have to try to listen. Gliding, grazing, surging, and cinematic.
It rolls right over you.
A pleasant, (and perhaps more affordable) neatly structured noise therapy.
Stubborn Persistent Illusion’s sound, though familiar, feels a touch more meaningful. More refined. I wanted to get to the bottom of why and how it was different from ones that came before. Then I discovered an interview with Justin Small, given by Cole Firth of Exclaim! –
and it all made sense.
Here Firth and Small discuss the many influences (environment, time, literature, art and technology) on the making of this most recent record – first and foremost acknowledging the band’s fondness for recording in unconventional settings. Turns out the guys took a trek to Iceland to record – in February – no less.
And not only that, they recorded the album at Sundlaugin. Which in case you aren’t familiar with Iceland – is the studio where Sigur Ros makes records.
Basically, where the magic happens.
OK so now we get it. Small also talks about the fact that they took an extra year to record, and in the end the record took on a more emotional tone – a direct result of events that occurred in band members’ lives over that year.
It’s all coming together.
Also of interest; conceptually this record is inspired by a Buddhist poem. In his interview, Small acknowledges the fact that Spearin approached the band with the poem as a thematic idea for the “songs being thoughts that, once they leave your head, can do almost anything within themselves but eventually must return.” Lovely. And most definitely different.
I like how Balfour too notes that this record is a little bit different – distinctive, perhaps – in which the group “uncovers new wrinkles in their sound”. It’s as if they’ve allowed themselves the time to process personal experiences and let their sound evolve – while still remaining grounded and natural.
Chris Gee of Exclaim! also acknowledges the band’s unwavering magnetism and fortitude over the two decade span. Here he recounts special moments from their only announced performance on June 10th.
This band practically never tours. So it’s kind of a big deal.
The show was appropriately held in their hometown of Toronto following the album’s release in 2017. With two drummers, multiple guitars, a three-piece horn section, a violinist, bass and synth’s (the list goes on) the band epitomizes collaboration. Carefully organized collaboration that is – with many of the members switching from one instrument to another and back again. Gee also relays that according to Justin Small, drummer James Payment just one week prior had a pot of boiling water dropped onto his foot, only to have it develop a dangerous infection that would subsequently threaten amputation.
You know drummers. They really know how to stir up the drama.
Thankfully Payment recovered in time to be in tip-top shape for showtime. How is that even possible? Guys, the show must go on.
Sit back, pour a glass of (enter delightful drink of choice) and give this record a listen. Mark my words, you will be irrefutably, pleasantly surprised.
Here’s a track to get you started!