Monday, November 21, 2011

To Destroy A City - To Destroy A City

To Destroy A City

To Destroy A City
n5MD Records.

SCQ Rating: 74%

Even as an infant, post-rock earned its reputation through sheer force; a pulverizing instability that not only countered any safeguarded delicacy but assembled its own frightening beauty in the process. It’s natural that anything with a rising esteem should embrace its pop elements and, in that arc, post-rock was no different; greats like Mogwai and Sigur Ros culled their melodious accents, trimmed their sprawl and contracted once organic dynamics into muddy alt-rock choruses. Yes, the genre hadn’t a chance of surviving beyond its incubation period without such changes but it’s worth looking backward to ascertain how we ended up with To Destroy A City.

Since the mercurial rise that spawned Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven and Young Team, post-rock seems like it’s perpetually stranded at a crossroads; a junction that To Destroy A City doesn’t concern itself too much with. And I hardly blame the Chicago-based trio. Operating on the flipside of boundary-pushing bands like Tortoise or The Pattern Theory, To Destroy A City makes sweeping electronic post-rock with the shimmering beauty requisite for n5MD’s approval. Electronic keys create syncopated codas that are swiftly swallowed by the guitar growl of ‘Before the Outside’s Gone’ while piano drifts elegantly over some teasing shoegaze textures on ‘March’.

The debut displays a knack for slow-burning narratives that needn’t exploit ear-shredding force but it falters in pinpointing To Destroy A City’s stakes. These songs articulate well the idea that post-rock can be completely functional as emotive, beautiful soundscapes – Hell, ‘Goodbye, Dear Friend’ goes one further by besting Explosions In the Sky at their own game – but To Destroy A City show the most promise when aiming for more than tasteful mimicry. (Don’t get me wrong: sounding like Lights Out Asia is a serious compliment but I sense a greater purpose for this trio.) Interrupting their blank slate with the spoken word assisted ‘Ilium’ and the four-by-four beats on ‘The Marvels Of Modern Civilization’, these seemingly out-of-place tracks eventually deepen the album as a listening experience, while forecasting where this young band may go next. Serene yet suspenseful, To Destroy A City earns the title of an easy-listening post-rock album; with each listen, these songs reveal themselves as more than background tones or ear-candy. Slowly, it awakens like a first step into the unknown.

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