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This Will Destroy You: Tunnel Blanket

img  Tobias Fischer

There's a lot to be said for taking small steps and avoiding abrupt transitions. At the same time, never straying from the path of moderation risks compromising on some of the traits that make music such a fascinating tool for self-expression and self-discovery in the first place: Its unique ability to reach the unattainable, say what can not be put into words and, at least for the short duration of a song, put both listener and performer in the places they desire most. It is an unholy alliance of external pressure, misguided pragmatism and fear of rejection that makes following up on one's creative beliefs seem naive or foolish, when there is really no time to be lost – countless careers are already over, while artists are still saving up their best ideas for later. Well aware of the ephemerality of opportunity, This Will Destroy You have refused to choose for safety in following up on their widely acclaimed debut full-length and put their words where their mouth is. After stating in dozens of interviews that they would rather not be associated with the post rock genre, after hundreds of shows in which they blasted the accessible structures of their studio material to shreds and after confessing to their love for noise, chaos and confusion, they have put the counter back to zero and asked themselves a seemingly simple question: What is the album we really want to record? The epic sixty minute journey of Tunnel Blanket is their answer and it is sure to surprise, shock and even repel many long-time fans.

Tellingly, guitarist Donovan Jones has openly stated that the new material did not just put its audience on a test of endurance, but was actually „hard to swallow“ for the musicians themselves. It isn't particularly difficult to see, why. Over the course of its duration, the album takes listeners from passages of white-noise-exorcisms and brutally disfigured industrial-style vocal screams to moments of zen-like-stillness, experimental electronica, drum-machine-sketches and pastoral rock-ballads, continually  questioning what may be considered acceptable in terms of form, arrangement, length, style and dynamics. In fact, at times, it seems as though This Will Destroy You have wilfully tried to avoid traditional solutions and proven techniques at all costs, making ambition, guts and rebellion their guidelines. The edge of the seat is their throne here: Twelve-minute-opener „Little Smoke“ beckons with a cycle of dreamy rhodes-chords before entering the caverns of depressive noise-rock, while „Black Dunes“ opens out as a stiflingly slow jazz-noir-shuffle only to explode into a metallically scraping wall of fuzz. The most telling moment of the album, however, occurs in its bewildering middle section. After the band have taken their audience through the glacier-like tectonics of first single „Communal Blood“, the group repeat the entire piece for another eight minutes as an even more subdued and unreal, piano-dominated reprise-sequence – a move that in its almost destructive self-centrism initially defies belief.

And yet, it is the moment the cookie crumbles and the music takes a step back to reflect on itself – and when, as a listener, one truly leaves the safe hallways of post rock to enter into a wide open space no longer delineated by dogmas of classification. Whereas This Will Destroy You's homonymous predecessor was about precision and tangibility, Tunnel Blanket deals with uncertainty and vagueness. Whereas, formerly, standout-tracks like „A Three-Legged Workhorse“ would slowly grow and unfold from humble beginnings into brooding anthems, the new compositions, contrarily, seem to be decaying and falling apart. And while the band not quite inaptly used to define themselves as a „bastard version of rock“, their current work doesn't just seamlessly integrate elements of ambient and drones into their context, but completely reverses priorities: Everything here is about texture, mood and depth, about density, momentousness and timbre. And everything that could potentially distract from these goals has been minutely erased from the band's palette.

It goes without saying that an album like this doesn't come easy. Effectively, after already putting the different pieces of the puzzle together in their own studio, This Will Destroy You recorded it anew in its entirety with trusted producer John Congleton and then spent an entire year searching for the right record company to share their vision. Similarly, the band have, in an interview with Noise Verse Noise, summed up the underlying themes of Tunnel Blanket as „death, drone, dark matter, no god“. This is, importantly, not merely to be understood as a musical change of direction. Literally, the album documents a dark patch and channels the appending ugliness as literally as possible, rather than diluting or glossing it over it in the process of artistic creation: Where things seemed out of reach, Tunnel Blanket makes them seem even more unattainable. Where there is a desire, it is ignored. And where words could award meaning to the void and emptiness inside, it stubbornly refuses to speak. Tunnel Blanket isn't a search for the right words, it is the very epitomisation of the state of wordlessness, when even the most philosophical uttering would appear to be pointless and shallow. This is why the album always feels both intimate and claustrophobic, romantic and depressed, full of promise and hopeless at the same time.

Many will see Tunnel Blanket as a bold move, but what really makes it courageous is not its uncompromising stance but its willingness of sharing some of the formation's innermost secrets and thoughts. It is their reticence which is most shocking here – there could be an abys behind even the smallest and most carefully placed step.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: This Will Destroy You
Homepage: Monotreme Records

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