There is a scene from the book The Lottery by Beth Goobie, which crept out from the folds of my memory on Tuesday night while at This Will Destroy You’s show at the Biltmore Cabernet. The story was of a high school, with a student lottery; the winning prize was a year of isolation – the whole of the student body had to ignore you. The girl chosen in the year of the book – Sally – had an excellent stereo system complete with excellent headphones. The headphones went to volume ten, but neither her brother nor the girl could go past four comfortably, and would only listen at four only briefly. Awhile into her ostracism – Sally was found lying on the basement carpet, the headphones on at volume six, and she: motionless. This Will Destroy You, and its musical kin can at moments envelop you in their atmospheric voids. The music can express the feeling of being overwhelmed, of everything being too much and all at once, without embodying those characteristics definitively. This is the music Sally had to be listening to, as she lay there breathing – but only just.
The four of This Will Destroy You – Chris King and Jeremey Galindo on guitar, Donovan Jones on bass and keyboard, and Andrew Miller on drums – came on the stage without an introduction, and without an opening act. Their set was dominated by music from their two studio albums, 2008’s self-titled This Will Destroy You, and 2011’s Tunnel Blanket. The music works to create a mood of losing consciousness, and moving into an expanding emptiness. “A Three-Legged Workhorse” opened, and the dissolve began. The beat trembled and seeped through the crowd, creating stillness in the Cabernet. Next came the slower and deeper “There Are Some Remedies Worst Than The Disease:” a song, which demonstrates the patience of the music. Perhaps the only stereotypical Southern feel to this Texan band’s music is that patience, that slowness of the South, prevalent even in the music the band’s bassist grew up listening to – chopped and screwed rap. The drums provide an anxious beat, and call you away from mists of swirling guitar – and the violin cuts through like the bow of a ship, as the song slowly, slowly cuts into you. The set melted into “Black Dunes,” with shimmery tones, and the emptiness further filling the room, until the crushing of layered melodies hits four minutes in; entangling the listener in the scriptures of chaos.
During “Burial On the Presidio Banks” the band seemed to lose focus, and the atmosphere was lost afterwards, as the crowd began to increasingly ‘woo’ for the crashing of the walls, and talk above the music. “Burial on the Presidio Banks” illustrates the near perfection that TWDY has achieved for the definitive of post-rock: the intensely slow build and the crescendo of the wall. Yet it appears that with the attempt to move away from the post-rock classification, and towards their self-dubbed doom-gaze of Tunnel Blanket, TWDY will lose some fans. The crowd drifted for the remainder of the show. The introduction of robotic voice induced one couple to slow dance, and much of the crowd began to treat the show as background music for their conversations. While those closest to the stage did listen throughout, many hanging at the fringes and by the bar deigned to do so only for the build-ups towards the wall, and the wall itself. “Glass Realms” from Tunnel Blanket reflected the move in the band’s sound to lulls, intense focus on mood creation, siren flutters, repetition, and ambience; but the distracted crowd drowned out the subtleties. “Move on Tracks of Never-Ending Light” and “Lil Smoke” finished the set, and are standouts on their respective albums. “Move on Tracks of Never-Ending Light” for its incredible presence of tragedy, and sheer beauty; “Lil Smoke” for its exploration of the weaving of sounds, and the unexpected crush of the wall. Despite audience calls, there was no encore.
TWDY played well, but failed to control the crowd. The silence the music deserved could have perhaps been achieved by two factors – one being the reduction of light in the bar, and two being more interaction from the band to the audience. TWDY came and played. They spoke once, and played as though their music should be enough. Exacerbating this problem was the opening act played second; it being far more raucous and physical, it should have remained as the opener. It would have allowed for the crowd to release some of its energy, and better appreciate the gentler, more original moments of TWDY.