Published Jan 01, 20061. Do Make Say Think & Yet & Yet (Constellation)
Drone rockers Do Make Say Think have grown considerably since their second last album, Good-bye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead. Instead of recording their music in a barn, Do Make Say Think decided to focus on a cleaner studio sound. Bassist and studio engineer Charles Spearin explains, "I could say there's a bit more engineering on & Yet & Yet. This one was also kind of thrown together in a way. It took a long time but it had the same spirit as the last record. We didn't give ourselves enough time to go over every mixing idea. We recorded it over three weekends so there's still a sense of urgency and spontaneity to the recording. Two of the songs were written independently on an eight-track and souped up in the studio. I think we did pretty good making the sound we wanted to get."
The cleaner sound better showcases the Do Makes' talents as musicians and their syncopation with each other. Listening to songs like "Classic Noodlanding," "Reitschule," and "Soul and Onward" one can hear the level of like-mindedness and musical harmony that only comes from relationships of long-standing. Clearer is the lush instrumental density that results from two drums, two guitars, a bass, and a horn section. These elements combine in a way that is emotionally evocative and dramatic, like a film score.
But this album best soundtracks an interior cinema. & Yet & Yet is Do Make Say Think's most sentimental sounding recording to date, touching on romantic emotions on "Soul & Onward" and "Anything for Now." It's more varied, focused, cleaner, and more melodic.
When the record was released, there was some anxiety over how fans would receive it. Because of the success of Good-bye Enemy Airship..., the band members felt their latest work was the most self-conscious. At the time, guitarist Justin Small commented, "We don't want the listener to be under any impression. We just want them to listen to it and be like, in love with it. I just hope we're good. Like any kind of music, we have a definite idea and those who share the idea, we want to make proud." Indeed they have. I. Khider
2. Godspeed You Black Emperor! Yanqui U.X.O. (Constellation)
Montreal's progressive act GYBE! are time-travelling into an iconoclastic faceless mega rock band of the 70s, with epic and conceptual compositions, while their sometimes sneering political stance and expansion of the "post rock" sound is their "modern" element. Yanqui U.X.O. is their best album to date, a heterodoxical melding of those evil ambient Pink Floyd-esque sounds and a dash of Bernard Herrmann with more traditional classical arrangements. And credit them for hypnotising rock crowds with (gasp!) violins and cellos. The band is this close to becoming a new style early Genesis; their staccato arrangements sound more and more like "Watcher of the Skies." Expect Peter Gabriel in a floral helmet any minute. Roman Sokal
3. Polmo Polpo The Science of Breath (Substractif)
The Science of Breath is one of the freshest atmospheric soundscape albums this year. Producer Sandro Perri manages to include cello and lap steel guitar without resorting to mere novelty, but it's not just Perri's instrumentation that that makes his sounds unique, but also his singular approaches to the details of rhythm. His tracks teem with aquatic life, rushing water sounds and the pulse of internal organs in a dance rhythm. Slices of ambient tracks, placed delicately between the more kinetic pieces, were inspired by Yogi Ramacharaka's book The Science of Breath; excerpts are included in the liner notes. Atmospheric and dance rhythms balance perfectly in the meticulous details of Polmo Polpo. I. Khider
4. Jori Hulkkonen Different (F Communications)
Most of today's techno vanguard adheres to an undisclosed manifesto of minimalist and mathematical aesthetics. The use of melody is often deemed anachronistic, if not an obvious commercial move. Fortunately, Finnish producer Jori Hulkkonen's debut disc takes the pressure off the bass and shifts it throughout the many layers of synthesised sounds. The results are atmospheric but lyrical as well, mainly because the keyboards sound like they've actually been played, not just programmed. While some of his vocal interventions are tongue-in-cheek, he never gets too caught up in new wave parody. Instead, it's like he's having a conversation with the old school, and often it's the classic music of Derrick May that's on the receiving end. It's too early to proclaim as Hulkkonen an innovator, but like label-mate Laurent Garnier, he's taking music further by taking it back. Prasad Bidaye
5. Jason Robinson Tandem (Accretions)
The marriage of improvisation and electronics has been getting better over the last decade, as Tandem proves. In this series of duets, Robinson plays reeds and electronics and meets up with some big name players such as bassist Peter Kowald and trombonist George Lewis. His work with them is great; he more than holds his own as a player. When Robinson dips into his electronic bag, he's even better, creating spontaneous, other-wordly settings that don't overwhelm the fine playing. David Dacks