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Live Review: This Will Destroy You, Talons and eaststrikewest - Camden Underworld, London - 30/09/2010

Instrumental bands are becoming ever more prevalent, and with them they carry the unique ability to bury their way into your soul and disrupt it furiously. A simple chord change can somehow move you to contented introspection, reduce you to tears, and then terrify you completely. With that in mind, was there ever a more befitting venue to house an all ambient post-rock line up than Camden Underworld, situated beneath sister pub The World’s End? “Underworld” isn’t just a clever name with alt. Connotation; the venue is genuinely made from 90% shadow.

London-based six piece eaststrikewest open the night, and have the defining factor of being the only band on the line-up that comes bearing vocals. Their fusion of ambient and pop elements produces moving songs without ever being weighed down under a crescendo of distortion. Talons come next, filling the room with their original theatrical arrangements, complete with harmonised violins. Through both sets, the crowd sit kneecap to kneecap on the floor, swaying lazily like boats on water, waiting for the tempest.

As soon as This Will Destroy You walk on stage, they launch straight into ‘Black Dunes’, a song from their forthcoming album ‘Tunnel Blanket’. Each song swings slowly between a patient dreaminess, which builds slowly towards a heavy climax of noise, and then begins again. This dynamic sometimes becomes tedious, mostly during particularly indulgent noisy climaxes, when it becomes difficult to distinguish anything at all through a vortex of heavy reverb. Nevertheless, the songs utilise repetition, not progression, to create continually mounting tension.

This Will Destroy You hurl a handful of brooding melodies, pounding drums, and churning guitar noise into the air, apparently going nowhere, before assembling themselves into faultless order. As layers continually build, chords cry out from beneath a blanket of noise and escalate into something both beautiful and chilling. ‘There Are Some Remedies Worse Than Disease’, ‘Quiet’, and ‘They Move on Tracks of Never Ending Light’ all found their way into the set list, providing moments of swelling anxiety and inwardly facing smiles.

The crowd, shrouded mostly in darkness, nod their heads in unison with every emphasised beat. Breaths are held pensively as the bass rumbles and weighs heavily in our stomachs. With no word from the band, the songs bleed into one - distortion replaces stage banter, and it seems like This Will Destroy you are playing intimately amongst themselves rather than building an intimacy with the crowd. There was a definite sense that we are observing rather than taking part, but despite a hazy separation between band and audience, the dynamic worked perfectly. Any break in the music, any verbal interjection, would have jarred like a line of dialogue in a silent film. They are an act to be watched and absorbed, or even get lost in, but not to be joined.

As if for the benefit of anyone harbouring any lingering doubts about the experience, This Will Destroy You return for an encore, thanking the crowd before letting the first few notes of 'Threads' ring out, providing, in their own patient style, the most satisfying moment of the night.

Emma Garland

Alter The Press!