Stars align

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For nearly a decade, Toronto’s Do Make Say Think has been a crucial component of Constellation Records, the fiercely independent Montreal-based bastion of post-rock and experimental music that also includes Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s monstrous racket and the wrenching solo work of Carla Bozulich (ex-Geraldine Fibbers and Ethyl Meatplow) among its ranks.

DMST is currently touring to support You, You’re a History in Rust, their fifth mooning and rousing record and, oddly enough, the first to feature vocals, including contributions from Akron/Family. But they’re also ambassadors for their label and the ideals it promotes.

"The mystique of Constellation Records is their integrity," observes Charles Spearin, the band’s multi-instrumentalist. (Actually, everyone in DMST is a multi-instrumentalist). "They don’t cheapen themselves or their artists with embarrassing attempts at overexposure and hype. People end up coming to them through word-of-mouth, decent publications, and seeing their bands play live. It’s a simple idea, but because they’re so dedicated and forthright with that idea, they’ve managed to create a very nurturing and protective environment for their bands — one which encourages them keep exploring without ever looking over their shoulder to see if the fashion police are giving them the thumbs-up or not."

Such a testimonial is heartening in this era of clueless majors and struggling indie labels. Given that DMST gets booked at large venues without commercial radio support and garners glowing reviews worldwide, it seems strange no bigger label has snapped up the cerebral rockers. But they’re content with their current patron.

"We’ve never been tempted to go elsewhere," Spearin admits, "but we’re kind of the black sheep of the family in that we sell T-shirts to make a little extra cash and have started to travel in a tour bus to be a little more comfortable. But they love us anyway."

Constellation’s honchos aren’t the only ones loving DMST. The ensemble’s built a strong fan base for its intricately orchestrated post-rock, a sound that encompasses jazz, psychedelic, punk, and electronic elements and projects it all in dynamic, cohesive torrents of virtuosity that are often surprisingly subtle. A Can-like telepathy seems to guide the group.

"It’s a process of playing, listening, and being aware of our own subtle emotional reactions to what we hear," Spearin explains." Creating is a two-way street. As much as we are strumming strings and so on, we are also excavating and uncovering some kind of emotional relic that we didn’t really design or produce ourselves. I don’t mean to suggest that there is some kind of higher force involved or anything like that; it’s just that it’s hard to take credit for something when you feel like you’re on an archaeological dig. We’re proud of what we find in that we had to decide where to dig and what tools to use, but in the end we’re always a little astonished at what’s been unearthed."

Just don’t think they’re astonished to still be plugging away with Constellation.


Feb. 23 at The Magic Stick, 4120-4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700.

Dave Segal is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]
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