This Will Destroy You’s ‘Vespertine’ is stunning work of post-rock art

vespertine album review
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Grade: 4.5/5.0

Vespertine, the newest release by Texas post-rock band This Will Destroy You, is a long, ambient drone that, while lacking in the heavy doomgaze qualities of the group’s former releases, isn’t significantly different from past records. The catch? It’s an architecturally inspired score for a restaurant of the same name. Officially released June 9, Vespertine was composed by the band for chef Jordan Kahn’s two-Michelin-star gastronomical experience and is intended as a musical journey through the building. 

This Will Destroy You has always been somehow establishing and then pushing the boundaries for the limitlessly expansive genre of post-rock. Vespertine is yet another example of the band’s security in what it knows how to do best, and its confidence in bringing these skills to an unorthodox venture. 

Vespertine is an entirely instrumental score, and while it may seem to some listeners as a single-note album without any elements such as drum fills or keyboard riffs to bring variety, that’s simply not the point of the record. The inflections in sound are slowly cascading, soft but lush. Vespertine is not an album to be focused on by itself, but one that instead adds depth and beauty to whatever environment it’s played in. 

Vespertine begins with “Building,” intended to represent the feelings evoked when first looking at the restaurant. The song starts out with a deafening bass and static, which gently take a back seat to a sustained synth note before fading out slowly. It is atmospheric, enveloping and slightly startling. “Building” hits listeners with a wall of sound, fitting for a track intended to represent the outside of none other than its title.

The next installment, “Entrance,” represents a stark contrast from “Building.” Shifting from dark notes to brighter ones, which echo and fuzz as they dissipate, “Entrance” is hopeful and relaxing. It invades the mind and seems to go on for an eternity, despite being one of the shorter songs on the record. Toward the end, “Entrance” takes on a heavier tone, but never loses its sense of hope, instead exuding an air of mystery.

“Kitchen” and “Rooftop” mark the beginning of the interior of Vespertine and are more dynamic in composition, while still maintaining the simplicity of the record. “Kitchen” adds in distinct piano strokes backed by a singular booming bass note. The notes slowly build upon one another and create waves of emotion and soothing sound. “Rooftop” is another beautiful track, full of lulling synths. With repetitive crests and pauses of sound, it is slightly more monotone than its predecessor, like a warm immersion into a dream.

“Exit” circles the album back to the start, with hints of the ominous bass from “Entrance” peeking through. But “Exit” still holds on to the sense of unexpectedness and anticipation brought on from “Entrance,” signaling that it isn’t yet time for goodbye.

In fact, there’s one more track after “Exit,” the pinnacle of the record: “Garden.” Natural and dreamy with a gradual progression, the track has the perfect level of minimalism while adding in enough chord changes to keep things interesting for an extended amount of time. “Garden” also has a slight reverb incorporated, giving the song a calm yet tripped-out quality. Though “Garden” clocks in at nearly 22 minutes, it’s timeless and gloriously ethereal.

Vespertine is a cohesive sensory experience, an ambitious experiment by an established post-rock band carried out flawlessly. The album could have easily become tired and boring ambient noise, but instead the intricate placement of synths and deep cadences give this record a soul.

Vespertine isn’t just restaurant music. It’s a sprawling yet composed masterpiece. It has its own integrity as an album, apart from its association with a posh Los Angeles eatery. The record has a way of extracting listeners from a ho-hum existence and allowing them to get lost in the elegance and unbroken flow of the music.

Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].