When the instrumentals alone make the music’s message perfectly clear, why bother writing lyrics? “Words are just little boxes you put feelings in,” bassist Donavan Jones of This Will Destroy You (TWDY) told me after their hour-long set at the Hub last Friday night. This is not to say that every band ought to go all instrumental, but it works for this group from San Marcos, Texas, particularly on the show’s opening number, “Black Dunes,” from their yet-to-be-released second LP Tunnel Blanket. Like much of their material, it starts with a slow build of murmuring guitars plumped with feedback and delay (lots of delay), providing ambience more than melody, which grows until they kick the song up to shirt-rippling volumes for what might count as the chorus.
They played without saying a word and barely acknowledged the crowd, blending each song into the next without a hint of a pause for the first 15 minutes of their performance, which led a few spectators to applaud during the periodic fadeouts with a kind of “Can we clap, now?” hesitation.
The oft-applied “post-rock” tag (which they understandably hate) may defy definition, but TWDY’s concept (a filleting of rock music’s elemental formulas) is as basic as it gets. Deconstruct, explode, repeat. It’s a style that merits comparisons to Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky, but that’s not to say that this quartet of head-hangers lacks individuality. Did I mention the concert was loud? The first sudden crescendo drove many in the small, conspicuously young audience to plug their ears with their fingers. (Oh, freshmen.)
The material they’ve written since their 2006 debut EP, Young Mountains, and their self-titled 2008 full-length release is angrier than before, more informed by extreme, detuned doom-metal bands such as Boris and Sunn O))), whose famous tagline is “Maximum volume yields maximum results.” TWDY recorded the compositions for Tunnel Blanket without as much concern for the public’s reaction, Jones explained in the short interview, and they did so to “weed out” the less open-minded music fans.
Lancaster native and Isla Vista local Colton Saylor and his band opened the night’s events with a brief set of harmonica-laden country-pop tunes (including one about Charles Bukowski and at least one about Jesus) and self-deprecating banter, the latter of which Saylor may have employed in response to the crowd’s annoying indie-kid tendency to sit campfire-style throughout the performance. Generally, audience members stood for TWDY, though those who sat in the back missed little. Stage presence is not the band’s calling card. But the sounds that filled the Hub — at times disintegrating into a hell-fog of pulsating, echoing amp noise and atomized bass tones — were just about presence enough.