Before I begin this review in earnest, let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way first. Yes, the band’s moniker is suspiciously similar to a quote from A Silver Mt. Zion’s first album. Yes, the artwork is an ominous black and white photo of a rustic countryside, complete with a church barely visible against the gloomy skyline. The song titles — “The Sky Was Glorious for a Moment,” “Ghost Guitar in the Shell” — have a somewhat esoteric, poetic quality to them that convey meaning no mere lyrics ever could. And yes, as you might expect, they’re completely instrumental, with the exception of cryptic spoken word segments.
Now if you’re like me, you probably have a fair amount of cynicism brewing inside your brain by now. Well, I urge you to put that all aside. Yes, there are many things that are obvious about Destroyalldreamers’ music. But it’s not really all that fair to the band to harp on that, as their music proves to be quite a bit more than just the sum of their obvious influences and inspirations.
Any doubts that I had going into the album were immediately silenced as soon as the first sonic strands of the title track came wafting over my speakers. And by “strands” and “wafting” I mean just that, as two eerie guitar lines slowly begin to coalesce and entwine with each other. There’s a ghostly, ephemeral quality to them, due in equal parts to the generous helping of ringing, shimmering effects and to the static-y haze that envelopes them, courtesy of the lo-fi recording values. Although the drums and bass surge at times, and the guitars threaten to unleash a dirge of sound, the band constantly toes the line, building the song only to ease off just before it crests. As a result, it just seems to hang there gracefully, suspended and framed between filaments of guitar.
“Sombrer Dans La Folle” picks things up a bit, with churning drums and insistent guitar, and this time the song does end in a cataclysm. However, the band is much more successful when they take their time and let their music gradually expand and develop. The layers of chiming guitar that begin “The Sky Was Glorious For A Moment” are so lovely, so perfectly in tune with the imagery of the song’s title, that it’s almost a shame when the drums come in and ground them.
“En Tempete, Les Enfants Sont Seuls” proceeds at the same pace as Sigur Rós’ () album, with a funereal bassline creating a solemn atmosphere as stormclouds of guitar slowly take shape overhead. “Ghost Guitar in the Shell” closes out the album with spectral guitars and feedback. Unlike the opening track, “Ghost Guitar” does eventually crest, its guitars breaking free and wreaking havoc. Though considering the restraint the band shows throughout much of the disc, they’ve probably earned it.
The one thing that really helps Destroyalldreamers’ music is the fairly lo-fi manner in which it was recorded. All of the instruments take on a static-riddled sound, with tape hiss often enveloping them to the point where it sounds like the recording took place in the midst of a snowstorm. While this proves to be one of the album’s greatest assets, giving the music a hazy quality akin to The Clientele’s dreamy pop (albeit much darker and much, much louder), it also proves to be a bit of a liability.
For one thing, it draws some undue attention to the rather timid drumming and especially the cymbalwork, which sounds like an assortment of crumpled pie tins; the flat ride crashes and hi hat often jut out from the gorgeous guitar textures at rather awkward angles. Also, the band’s thinned sound lacks the necessary power, the right amount of oomph to make their climaxes (à la “Sombrer Dans La Folle”) truly memorable.
While most people focus on Godspeed You Black Emperor!‘s more explosive moments, I find their quieter, more subdued pieces just as intriguing, if not moreso. The same goes for Destroyalldreamers. I find their music most interesting when it’s at its most subdued and delicate, when they allow their textures to gracefully build (again, I refer to the lovely opening minutes of the first and third tracks), and allow the lo-fi production bathe it in static and white noise. Those moments have their own beauty that easily outshines any cynical preconceptions that might arise given the general sound (read “cinematic, instrumental post-rock”) that the band has decided to pursue.