Written by: Ancient Hand
San Marcos’s This Will Destroy You should need no introduction at this point; the Texas post-rock group has seen plenty of success and experimentation in their now 16-year-old career. The group’s 2008 self-titled album is considered by many to be their magnum opus, and I am included in this group. That record is a beautiful blend of instrumentation that culminates into a moving and beautiful journey across an auditory version of the American Southwest. After 12 more years and plenty of other albums, we finally get the standalone release of Vespertine, the soundtrack to the high-class, two-Michelin star restaurant of the same name. The soundtrack has been available to those that have been in the restaurant for a few years now, but This Will Destroy You has finally released the soundtrack for the rest of us to enjoy.
Now, I feel it is important to share the assumptions that I had about this album prior to listening to it: I figured it would be soft, beautiful, and flow with very little changes in songs in order to not overtake the atmosphere of the environment the music is being played in. Simply, I figured it would be a beautiful record, but it could be slightly boring if not being played as background music. These assumptions will be revisited after I have given my thoughts on each individual song.
Gone are the crisp and tightened drums from tracks like “Leather Wings.” While the band made their best material inspired by the rugged and hardened Texas/ New Mexico landscape, Vespertine seeks to offer calmness in the middle of a pristine establishment. You wouldn’t know this from the introductory track, however. “Building” is a bassy, droning track that is as grimy as this collection of songs gets. It almost offers a foreboding mood, seeming to make the transition into peace and tranquility with the song “Entrance,” which is probably my favorite track off this album. Brief and gorgeous, it feels like a cozy welcome into a place that is both homey and accepting. A warm and vibrant track that does not overstay its welcome.
The lead single, “Kitchen,” and the track “Rooftop” offer moments of beauty where taking a breath is both encouraged and necessary. They don’t move quickly at all-- opting to take their time and hold you before they pass you along, much like larger rooms of a house would. There is a comfort in these songs, and they can still be looked at closely enough to find specific moments of beauty without too much repetition.
“Dining Room” is probably the biggest culprit of being able to determine that this album is a soundtrack intended for a room that people can spend an indeterminable amount of time in. It is long, subtle, and has very little progression. I believe that this lends itself beautifully to its intended purpose, but it is difficult to enjoy when examining it closely. It feels too subtle in its approach to be enjoyed directly, but it lends a lush wall of noise as a backing to an enjoyable evening.
“Exit” feels like a counterpiece to “Entrance,” though I found the former to be more warming and beautiful. “Exit” feels like a soft farewell that leaves you wanting just enough more that you know the goodbye is not permanent.
“Garden,” being the longest track on the album, had me worried. After feeling like “Dining Room” was a little too difficult to enjoy while giving it my full attention, I felt “Garden” would be equally soft and lack distinct moments. I was, thankfully, proven wrong. “Garden” is a soft, tranquil, elongated moment of beauty that fills the empty spaces left behind by some other moments on this record. It’s lush and manages to fulfill its goal without being too passive. It feels more fitting to me to be called “Rooftop,” given the image it conjures is my mind is one of looking out over a city shrouded by nighttime, with stars being thinly veiled by light pollution while you enjoy a peaceful night with those you love. This is, however, simply the thoughts this beautiful track conjures in my mind. Title qualm aside, this is clearly one of the standout points of this album.
Now, to revisit my assumptions from earlier, I believe Vespertine proved me dead wrong in some moments and right on the money with others. I feel as though “Entrance” and “Garden” can both be listened to in an active listening session and hold your full attention (despite the 20+ minute runtime of “Garden”). Vespertine is a beautiful record that thrives as the soundtrack to a lovely evening spent with those you love. It may not directly bring you the comfort of that night, but it is a fantastic companion piece to such an experience.
This Will Destroy You - Vespertine will be released June 9th from Dark Operative. In the meantime, check out "Kitchen."
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We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!