PHOTOS AND REVIEW: This Will Destroy You and John LaMonica @ Lee’s Palace
I think the word of the night was “mazes”; the charmingly underlit Lee’s Palace, its ziggurat main floor, tangled (effects board) cabling like climbing vines… John LaMonica unraveled tracks of artisanal dreampop for the mash-up age, more a supervisor of his digital concoctions than performer of them. No, he maintained an upper hand with a clear and steady hymning that recalled Thom Yorke above all. Loose, multifarious, but not consumed by his process, he allowed for himself a stride towards the stage’s edge, palm raised – It was an effective bit of performance. A different beast when not in Pro Tools, the songs came out like binary punk with a crackly low-end. Groove was crucial, and ladies on the floor quickly converted what would be their familiar dance to head nodding with odd-metered attentiveness. I enjoyed the deconstruction of his album’s production, the act’s data maze that was used a jumping board for the Human element: LaMonica’s strength as a vocalist and his rapport with his crowd, all under a single blue/white spot.
It took a ride cymbal count-in for “Little Smoke”, abridged but no less devastating than its album-opening counterpart on new disc Tunnel Blanket. This Will Destroy You graciously followed with “Glass Realms” and “Communal Blood”. Realms in particular dropped my jaw as the lunar tide of effects fallout from Smoke evolved into a far more acoustic impression than I would have guessed. And, of course, the galloping tom roll for Blood’s ending sequence met unanimous applause (unlike the respectful silence that waited for every last aural drop to cease from the songs previous). Keeping with Tunnel Blanket‘s despondency, “Burial on the Presidio Banks” interrupted that album’s chronology with an abrasive and sensitive rendition. “There are Some Remedies Worse than the Disease” had a less careful flavour than the performed tracks till that point, a real hardcore jam that shockingly left their strings unbroken. Returning with “Black Dunes”, the tightly controlled bass chords were far crisper than when I first caught the song last year at the same venue – Easily the highlight of the night, Dunes stands as the band’s go-to for blending their chemical reactions with outright savagery. There was a bit of Moving on the Edges of Things cacophony to end their set, only to come out with “Quiet” in the encore – This saw the biggest crowd reaction.
I find myself defending Tunnel Blanket more than I think I should have to. The Young Mountain material played last night was more enjoyed by the audience, whereas the four cuts from their 2011 effort seemed to confound some of the folks on the floor – It’s new, I know. But I was completely enraptured and joyously challenged by their new material. When witnessing Young Mountain songs directly juxtaposed with a track like “Glass Realms”, you can gauge how much more sophisticated their set-up is. I don’t like dropping the post-rock-bomb on this band but I feel that Tunnel Blanket is far more in line with the genre’s philosophy, despite sounding far more removed from it than a song like “Quiet”. By this I mean that, yeah, they’re a four-piece rock set-up, but they seem to coax and summon loopholes, spirits, and treasure from their rock-standard instruments. As machinists, or people on the beach with metal detectors, they were discovering and encouraging sounds from their effects board maze (mhm) rather than controlling and reciting their songs. It’s noble. And it’s artistic. The older songs played through their current mix did show a consistency of character despite the first sonic impressions on album… But Tunnel Blanket live was as much a riddle as it was captivating. The songs felt difficult to execute and even more challenging to grasp as a viewer; as a listener, on the other hand, you felt a single haunting voice. I am guessing that’s what a band like This Will Destroy You would go for. Can’t wait for next time.
Photos courtesy of Charlie Young.