This Will Destroy You is a band that you feel, rather than hear. They’re almost entirely instrumental with a crush on ambient drones, the music is glacially paced, emerging in blastoff climaxes prominently through sculpted guitar devastation, and the sounds presented are about as pristine as they are intangible – hovering on the edges of perception in a blurry aroma. They’re also from Texas, which makes the comparisons to Explosions in the Sky both inevitable and completely justifiable. The band is doing music major post-rock in a scene where a lot of bands are doing music major post-rock, and if you keep that from distracting you Tunnel Blanket is contently excellent.
This Will Destroy You seem to realize that atmospheric texture and a big release is their best chance of grabbing attention, as such opener Little Smoke starts with a moody, genuinely gorgeous bass/piano duet before rupturing completely unwarned into a massive six-minute guitar-led thunderstorm and then receding back into the crystalline darkness that spawned it. It’s an entirely expected anthem that tugs at our most basic of instincts – not the oldest trick in the book but certainly not the newest; it sets a tone for the seven tracks that follow, easily locatable in terms of source material, but absolutely potent with pleasure. It is not the first time you’ll here an ear-blasting, amp-busting guitar drone, but when its done right, it’s done right.
The nosiness speaks for itself and This Will Destroy You do loud much better than most, but there are plenty of moments here that don’t need that drama. The track following that initial showstopper is the diminutive Glass Realms, a mystic, spellbound landscape that simultaneously resembles an ocean lapping up on a shore and an early Aphex Twin ambient gem. Killed The Lord, Left For The New World is the album’s most beat-driven work and comes like a carefree moment of relinquish. Delicate strings gently fade in and out of view; a stomping playground bass-drum joins nicely with marching snares and the far-off sounds of children at play. It’s the kind of song whose destination is clear from the first note, but the journey is just as lovely.
It is alarming how redundant Tunnel Blanket is for the lean stature of eight tracks. Coming right before the end Black Dunes is spiritually identical to the aforementioned Little Smoke. A few minutes of uneasy quietude then erupting in a heavy, apocalyptic scorn, and then evaporating back into nothing. It might have a denser assault than the first version, but given the obvious parallels it’s easy to wonder why the band would bother – either some deeper obligation to arty-farty cohesion or the inability to self-edit, especially considering how well the last track Hand Powered wraps up the record’s aesthetic.
The only thing truly hindering the album from universal acclaim is the crowded market. Similar bands are too close, and too heralded for a peer to steal the show. Without that context Tunnel Blanket stands up quite well for itself embodying the characteristics perennially maintained in great albums. The tracks work well together, the mood sticks long after listening, and the music is surprisingly unobtrusive. It sounds odd for a genre like this, but Tunnel Blanket might be best approached with a shut-down brain, ignoring the tired qualms of originality, and just let the atmosphere envelop.