$23 – $26

Destroyer

Zero Mile Presents
ALL AGES

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Terminal West.

887 W Marietta St NW, Ste C

Atlanta, GA 30318

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Destroyer at Terminal West on March 12, 2020

About this Event

Dan Bejar initially conceived of Have We Met, his 13th album as Destroyer out January 31, as a Y2K album. He was already active during the era but not heard overhead in a cafe or salon, which is perhaps what the idea of the Y2K sound evokes nearly two decades later. Bejar assigned frequent producer and bandmate John Collins the role of layering synth and rhythm sections over demos with the period-specific Björk, Air, and Massive Attack in mind, but he soon realized the sonic template was too removed from Destroyer’s own, and the idea of a concept was silly anyway. So he abandoned it and gave Collins the most timeless instruction of all: “Make it sound cool.”

The result is not a startling departure from 2017’s new-wavey, Thatcher-era yearning ken, but unlike that more band-oriented approach, the only actual instruments that appear here are bass and electric guitar. MIDI instrumentation will of course invite Your Blues and Kaputt nostalgia, the two other John Collins-heavy affairs, and to some degree that’s valid. Each contrasts cavernous empty space and synthetic sounds, but rather than whimsical theatrics or sleazy orchestral pop, Have We Met is buoyed by precise, plasticky guitar shredding three-dimensionally across massive percussion—the loudest and dirtiest drums on a Destroyer record to date.

Thematically, the songs do seem to point at a very modern dread—one that heightens the more you consider it. Maybe it’s a remnant of the Y2K idea, although many would argue it’s even more applicable now. Opener “Crimson Tide” is an instant classic, a six-minute journey that takes its rightful place alongside other Destroyer epics. It welcomes you at first with a sparse rhythm until percolating synths and propulsive bass make it all a reality with unsustainable imagery—oceans stuck inside hospital corridors, insane funerals. You “open your mouth just to watch your teeth shudder,” as the narrator suggests, powerlessly gawking at your surroundings.

On “The Television Music Supervisor,” we’re reminded by trickling keys, glitches, and “clickity click clicks” (a variation on the standard Bejar “la da das”) that those with the power to dictate our relationships with music and media are susceptible to error, a most 21st century concern. Perhaps the most audacious Destroyer track yet, “Cue Synthesizer” steps back to address the rote and often detached mechanics of music, while the waltzy and woozy centerpiece “University Hill” drifts even further and applies that logic more broadly, insisting that “the game is rigged in every direction” and “you’re made of string.” Final track “foolssong” is like an encyclopedia of Destroyer neatly contained in one track—there’s mention of a woman’s name, celestial trumpets, signature “la da das,” an ambient fade. There’s even a bit of a resolution, that you can dread all day but you still have to keep yourself entertained.

Atmosphere and loose approximations of a place or feeling are what we’ve come to expect from any new Destroyer record—certainly not an easily defined and stridently adhered to theme or concept. Have We Met manages to meet somewhere between those disparate Y2K reference points and Destroyer’s own area of expertise, gliding deftly into territory that marries the old strident Destroyer with the new, aged crooning one of late.

Nap Eyes makes crooked, literate guitar pop refracted through the gray Nova Scotian rain. Their songs are equal parts shambling and sophisticated, with one eye on the dirt and one trained on the starry firmament, inhabiting a skewed world where odes to NASA, brain protein aggregation, and the Earth’s magnetic field coexist easily with lyrics about insomnia, self-reproach, and drinking too much. In the world of Nap Eyes, workaday details punctuate (and puncture) cosmic concerns, as enigmatic songwriter, singer, and rhythm guitarist Nigel Chapman wrestles with air and angels, struggling (and often failing) to reconcile the Romantic rifts, both real and imagined, that define our lives: between chaos and order; solipsism and fellowship; the anxiety of social (dis)orders both big and small; and the various intersections and oppositions of religion, art, and science.

I’m Bad Now, the most transparent and personal Nap Eyes album to date, constitutes the third chapter of an implicit, informal trilogy that includes Whine of the Mystic (2014, reissued in 2015) and Thought Rock Fish Scale (2016), which was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize. The new songs position Nigel as a “cosmical mind” in the tradition of Olaf Stapledon’s philosophical science fiction novel Star Maker (1937), an existential detective who interrogates social, psychological, and spiritual milieus for clues about the elusive nature of knowledge. In this role, the song-persona, if not the songwriter, resembles a monkish, beatifically stoned Columbo, vigilantly squinty-eyed in his metaphysical quest for self-understanding, despite ostensible bumbling on the physical plane. The technology is essentially catechismal, taking the form of questions and answers posed to assert faith, or to defend doubt. The lyrics traffic in second-person address, but the “you” is often Nigel himself, a gaze inward and not, as in the “you” of most romantic pop songs, directed outward to others. (See “I’m Bad,” the almost-title track that deletes the temporal anchor of “now,” which employs second person self-address in a country-rock inclined tune that is stylistically different than anything the band has attempted, as well as mockingly self-flagellating. “You’re so dumb,” Nigel sings to himself, diagnosing his delusions.)

And yet some of the loveliest moments on I’m Bad Now involve rare glimpses of connection, anxious invitations to alien others. The galloping rhythmic rush of “Roses” locates an external “you” that remains a mirrored embrace: “People look for their reflections/Everywhere in everyone/Some like a soft glow, some a little sharper depiction.” In “You Like to Joke Around with Me,” our hard-pressed hero is redeemed by friendship: “Last night, my friends surprised me/With gestures of kindness I’d never expect,” catalyzing a minor revelation: “Tuning yourself/To catch another’s wavelength/Sure can make a difference/In this world.” The band itself is tuned to the wavelength of succinctly stinging, guitar-centric rock and roll—in other words, and by today’s genre standards, folk music.

While Nigel composes Nap Eyes songs in their inchoate form at home in Halifax, Brad Loughead (lead guitar), Josh Salter (bass), and Seamus Dalton (drums), who live a twelve-hour drive away in Montreal, augment and arrange them, transubstantiating his skeletal, ruminative wafers into discourses that aim to transcend what Nigel, in the song “Dull Me Line,” self-laceratingly deems “bored and lazy disappointment art.” The band provides ballast and bowsprit to Nigel’s cosmical mind. The nautical metaphor is not just whimsy: Nap Eyes are all Nova Scotians by raising and temperament, acclimated to life on an Atlantic peninsula linked narrowly to the rest of North America (“Follow Me Down,” with its “broad cove” and bay, and “Boats Appear,” with its “steam trails rising from the sea,” both offer an evocative sense of place for these otherwise mental mysteries.) Brad is a physical guitarist whose lyrical grace is matched only by the dark ferocity of his feedback-laced solos. Salter and Dalton exercise an unassuming mind-meld melodicism and vigor, and their gentle thrumming lends a new sonic clarity, depth, and range to match the effortless melodies and extraordinary writing. One couplet herein suggests the exalted life-force of rhythm in the estimation of Nap Eyes: “Hearing the bass as you enter your teens/Exit your life recollecting universal themes.”

The indelible instrumentation, coupled with the calm, lucid inquisitiveness of Nigel’s voice elevate certain verses, like this one from “Follow Me Down,” to the heights of everyday poetry:

I went out walking with my headphones on Classical Indian raga twenty minutes long Then I listened to old American folk song A little bit shorter, still a lot going on.

Nap Eyes songs resonate because they manage to balance delicately the cryptic and the quotidian, rendering a compellingly honest equivocation without evasiveness, a relatable ambivalence without apathy. As a result, both lyrically and musically, their music articulates the urgency of youthful grace. It’s the sound of being young and alive in the city, a tenuous and impermanent counterpoise of recklessness and anxiety, archness and earnestness. So let fly the cosmical mind into the gray night, dear listener.

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Terminal West.

887 W Marietta St NW, Ste C

Atlanta, GA 30318

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No Refunds

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