Do Make Say Think

Do Make Say Think played gorgeous music last night at Neumo’s in Seattle. A music critic might classify them as “post-rock,” a genre that involves lots of instruments, extreme shifts in dynamics, slow tempos, classical constructions (lots of triads, few sevenths or jazz chords), and few or no vocals. “Post-” because most of the musicians came out of the rock world (particularly punk), but somewhere along the way evolved (or devolved?) into more “grown-up” sounding music. Other bands in the genre include Sigur Ros, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Explosions in the Sky, and Tortoise. Personally, I like to think of these bands as the musical successors to mid-era Pink Floyd–after Syd Barrett left, but before they turned into a classic rock megaphenomenon; like Umma Gumma and the movie soundtrack albums More and Obscured by Clouds.

But here’s the interesting part. I was perched in the perfect spot for ultimate stereo sound (directly between the two enormous banks of speakers at the front of the club, as far away from them as they were from each other, like the third point of an equilateral triangle), when a younger guy, maybe 25 or so, asked me if I could move to the side. He had two stereo mics and some sort of digital recording box. I asked him if he was with the band, and he replied no, but that Do Make Say Think have an open taping policy (popularized by the Grateful Dead and often used by other hippie-jam bands), and that he posts all his recordings on Archive.org. Most interesting, he uses an open-source (this was very important, he mentioned it several times) lossless audio codec called FLAC that I wasn’t familiar with. Lossless codecs give you the exact same bits as a CD-quality recording, but are compressed to about half-CD size simply by eliminating a lot of blank bits–it’s basically like zipping a computer file.

Two things about this really struck me:

  1. Do Make Say Think don’t benefit directly from letting this guy record their shows, but allowing those shows to be recorded, posted freely, and traded benefits the band overall–it drives excitement and gets people out to live shows, where they might buy merchandise.
  2. This whole scene couldn’t have been further from the corporate rock world that Microsoft so desperately wants to enter with Zune. They’re striking this indie rock pose, but it’s really about fashion more than about the music–the Zune doesn’t even support Windows Media Audio Lossless, the only WMA codec that an audiophile like this kid would have found interesting. And of course their stance on DRM is completely alienating.
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