Do Make Say Think
Years and Charles Spearin and the Happiness ProjectEdit this event
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Do Make Say Think’s sixth full-length Other Truths was released this week, to almost universal acclaim. Such reception is well deserved – it’s a fantastic record, simultaneously evoking the body of their older work and breaking free of form limitations to produce four pieces that move seamlessly from gravity-defying minimalism to volcanic bursts of brass. In a manner appropriate to an album launch of sorts, the atmosphere in the Scala tonight, both onstage and offstage, is relaxed and celebratory – largely the result of the three bands playing, all of whom are essentially the headliner in several different guises. All ten members appear more than once, emerging at various stages of the evening to provide backing instrumentation for Ohad Benchitrit’s debut show as Years, and as members of Charles Spearin’s The Happiness Project. As a result all three sets blur into one fragmented yet oddly coherent whole, lending this evening the feel of a four-hour jam session that we’re fortunate enough to be allowed to witness, as opposed to a regular set of discrete performances.
Spearin’s Happiness Project are first on, and during the 45 minutes or so of their set manage to cram most of Do Make Say Think’s hallmarks into a distinctly different form, stripped of their devotion to blurred crescendos and with increased emphasis on gradual mutation. Taking as each song’s basis a sampled interview with one of Spearin’s friends and family, the band tightly wrap these spoken word snippets in synchronised melody, making his young neighbour’s verbal confusion sing to the bar-room stomp of ‘Vittoria’ and bringing the awkward cadence of human speech to bear fully on the already substantial crowd. It’s wonderfully eerie and strangely stirring, especially during the pastoral lullaby to his daugher, ‘Ondine’.
Ohad Benchitrit begins his Years performance solo, raising delicately fingerpicked themes to deafening levels and back down again. His skill as a guitarist belies his nerves, yet he sounds distinctly rattled when he admits that this is his first solo performance. Visibly relaxing as the rest of Do Make Say Think arrive as backing onstage, the rest of the set is performed as an ensemble with a muscular energy far more reminiscent of the day project. After an inexplicable five-minute gap, when the entire band walks offstage with a promise to return in a few moments, the same group return as the headliner. Justin Smalls cuts an almost impossibly skinny figure as he wraps himself around the rapidly shifting guitar tumult of opener ‘Do’, the entire band’s jovial mood at odds with their tightness as a unit and the sheer feral energy of the song’s climax.
When I reviewed Other Truths last week I mentioned that their music stands alone by merit of its joyful, life affirming qualities. This evening serves as a potent reminder of how singular Do Make Say Think’s back catalogue is - ‘Fredericia’, Winter Hymn Country Hymn Secret Hymn’s opener, takes a sudden, stomach-churning leap heavenward not once but twice, spiraling back to earth in a frantic flurry of jazz percussion, and ‘Bound To Be That Way’ is dazzling, driven by punctuated bursts of weightless guitar and piano. Live, these songs transcend even their spectacular recorded versions, the brass section brighter and more direct and each member’s infectious energy adding to the feeling of celebration. They close their main set with the most potent double-header imaginable: as ‘Horns Of A Rabbit’ segues directly into the ever-growing strains of ‘The Universe!’ it’s as easy as ever to get lost in their stargazing, but defiantly human, outlook on life.
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