THIS WILL DESTROY YOU – This Will Destroy You (2008)

This Will Destroy You - This Will Destroy YouPost-rock EPs, if done correctly, can be quite effective (Exhibit A: Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada). This might seem counter-intuitive, as post-rock is a genre that typically requires a lot of breathing room to work. After all, it takes The New Pornographers three minutes and Tortoise seven to do the same thing. Were someone to make a list of successful post-rock EP’s, This Will Destroy You’s debut, Young Mountain, would definitely be on it, even though it’s status as an EP is questionable (it runs for 36 minutes).

A year and change later, the band have followed up Young Mountain with a self-titled full length, an album which finds the band refining the sound that they put forth on their EP. This Will Destroy You have more of an artificial element in their music than most post-rock bands, frequently cascading their songs around layers of noise and electronic manipulation. They’re not as schizophrenic as, say, 65daysofstatic are, but their music lacks the lived-in feel of bands like A Silver Mt. Zion.

None of this is bad. Indeed, This Will Destroy You succeed admirably with this approach. Take for example, the album opener A Three-legged Workhorse, which begins with slick noise and sustained, trembling guitars. Slowly, an electronic drumbeat emerges; the noise evaporates and a guitar comes in, carrying the melody. It’s interesting to note that although the guitar is the focal point here, it’s the drumbeat that makes it work. It creates a cold atmosphere, contrasting with a guitar that would, by itself, sound warm.

And then a curious thing happens. Another drumbeat appears, this one not digital. The original beat is still floating around in the background, just enough to keep the cold atmosphere intact, but the physical drumwork is now center stage. The song is louder now, and we’re poised for the song to change from cold to warm. And it does. And it’s beautiful. But rather than keep the song going to where, at this point, it’s naturally headed, the band submerge this section under more noise, which pulses in and out, marring the beauty, then revealing it.

Forgive the structural analysis, but it’s all illustrative of the fact that This Will Destroy You really know what they’re doing. They know the elements of the post-rock genre (texture, atmosphere, dynamics), they know how the song structure of the genre works, but at the same time they’re utilizing it, they’ll throw in new things to keep listeners on their toes. The band’s sense of dynamics are especially attuned. Sometimes, the changes will be immense and terrifying, like those found in Threads, calling to mind bands like Explosions In The Sky. Sometimes, they’ll be slow and pronounced, like the opening crescendo of The Mighty Rio Grande, which lasts for over four minutes. Other times, the crests will be quicker, but still intense, reminding me of Stars of the Lid, like in the beginning of Villa Del Refugio. Actually, that song is great example of post-rock dynamics in general; the entire thing is just a series of various swells and fades, interwoven together with such precision, you’d swear that Matthew Cooper of Eluvium was somehow involved.

As good as the album is, however, the band occasionally falter. The biggest offender here is middle song of the album, Leather Wings, which doesn’t really lead anywhere (fortunately, the song is only three and a half minutes long, so its failure is forgivable). And sometimes the mix gets a little crowded, like at the end of The Mighty Rio Grande, which is a lovely song, but whose final moments are spent with too many elements competing for the listener’s attention. But these are minor, shortcomings of a great post-rock album. That the band doesn’t make good on the promise of its namesake is inconsequential; they’re good enough on this album to make you believe that they could, if they really wanted to. But they’d rather not.

HD RATING: 9/10

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2 Responses to “THIS WILL DESTROY YOU – This Will Destroy You (2008)”

  1. Nice review! …and I agree with most of it. Sorry to shamelessly plug, but if you’re interested in those “post post-rock” bands or whatever they’re called these days, read up about the emerging english ones on my blog http://www.cinematicmusic.wordpress.com
    Cheers!

  2. […] he’s taking the fury of This Will Destroy You down a few decibels on Within Dreams or combining Efrim Menuck minimalism with Amiina’s […]

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