Often the Thinker ~ Sincere Insanity

Often the Thinker is a bright spot in the cloudy evening sky of modern post-rock: a collective that honors the past while writing music for the present.  Sincere Insanity is a fitting title for the times, a nod to the tug-of-war in the modern mind, extending the theme of thought beyond the band’s name.

While the core of the collective continues to be Drew Lundberg, Do Make Say Think’s Charles Spearin lends both hands to the endeavor, one on instrumentation and the other on production.  As a result, we continue to recommend each band to fans of the other.  Like prior productions, the new album exudes a languid, homespun tone, taking its time to build a symphony.  Often the Thinker’s strongest suit continues to be the brass, which makes a humble appearance midway through opening track “For What’s Missing” and is never far away after that.

There’s great comfort in an album that knows where it’s going, yet takes its time to arrive.  Often the Thinker invites listeners to experience the set as a whole, an uncommon experience in digital days.  The 12-minute “Begging Morning” offers sprawling vistas of guitar and drums, like a long, vast prairie of undulating wheat.  Yet the listener suspects the buffalo will eventually arrive, and they do at the midway mark, prefaced by inviting bass, traveling in a dust cloud of drums: a pace quickening that represents the album’s standout moment.  In the eighth minute, a chugging sound suggests a passing steam engine, racing alongside the herd; then a gentle recession to warmth and calm.  A crunchy march closes the piece, which leads into the album’s shortest piece, a sparkling 1:34 pallet cleanser called “Relief.”

Side B begins with the shuffle of “Sincere Belief,” a title that lies in contrast to the album title and closer “Insanity.”  Listeners are invited to debate where one ends and the other begins.  The early minutes of “Open Weighted Empty” are marked by prominent bass and what seems like backward masking, a possible metaphor for the sociopolitical climate.  Then the trumpets arrive, offering a fanfare of humble proportions, like a tentative shift in policy or the first murmurings of hope.

If the snares of the next track suggest that a world has found its footing, the title – “A Mother’s Sting” – offers room for pause.  What is clear is that Often the Thinker has channeled the insanity, imitating the cover art, which corals its chaos into a forest green border, providing an illusion of control.  The sonic eruption of the second half is a cacophonous climax, an exhalation of emotion.  Perhaps there’s healing to be found in the Cheshire Cat’s statement that “we’re all mad here,” as a shared, sincere insanity might link us, rather than tearing us apart.  (Richard Allen)

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