destiny xl by they are gutting a body of water (2019)

back when i was (regrettably) more active on tinder, i came across someone with whom i had a fleetingly enjoyable conversation because we both enjoyed spirit of the beehive. somewhere shortly before they receded back into the cyber-ether forever, they recommended i listen to they are gutting a body of water, and i was immediately intrigued - what a band name, first of all! but the moment i clicked on that first track, i was pummeled in the face with awe. i have long since deleted tinder, but i still return to this album regularly; perhaps my match that day was not meant to be my match per se, but rather a musical guardian angel sent to show me this sick ass album.

they are gutting a body of water are a relatively new band out of philadelphia, led by one douglas dulgarian and ben opatut (aka ikea man), among other continuously changing members. that's about all i could find on their backstory, honestly. destiny xl (which was physically released as a 2 gb flash drive) appears to be their fourth and most successful lp, with their indie/slacker rock origins melting into a noisy, glitch-ridden brand of shoegaze that could rival the likes of my bloody valentine. i mean, it seriously is the most inventive and dynamic shoegaze album i have ever listened to. massive walls of fuzzy guitar and submerged, lethargic vocals are their staple here, with eerily distorted tape samples and sporadic tempo changes peppering the landscape; but what really excites me is how well every track fits together - some even acting as a reprise of earlier tracks.

"texas instruments" is an exquisitely bewildering opener - its chugging rhythm, if not coupled with such a saccharine and dreamlike melody, would have reminded me of a sludge metal track. aside from that, this one is actually a pretty standard shoegaze tune, if you are familiar with the genre, but i think this is merely a foundation to be mutated and expanded upon with each subsequent track. the real gutting of bodies of water starts with the second track, "eightball". a twangy guitar melody builds with more and more energy, dispersing itself like a cloud of mist over a gloomy ocean, until it is abruptly interrupted by a stumbling and cumbersome change in tempo. really, i can only explain to you what happens in each track, but the excitement and wonder they evoke in me is something inexplicable.

the next several tracks explore sampling in a somewhat hip-hop-like fashion; "ES beautyhand" features a stuttering harp led by sharp digital snares, and "i would love u" features a reversed tape recording of a woman speaking over various arhythmic beats, to name a few. but each time they stray away from their signature fuzz-storm, it comes back with a vengeance - like in "63 skies" and "a wasp appears".

but the magnum opus of the album - and i will stand by that claim until i die - is the third-to-last track, "double apple". after the peculiar journey that was each preceding track, the album's whimsical if disembodied tone dramatically shifts, and we are met with the harshest and most dramatic storm of sound yet. imagine a churning ocean of pixelated color, lapping its tongues violently at the electric air, while rain cascades like a siren song - and throughout the whole chaotic scene, there is a cherub-like voice singing as if completely unfazed, maybe even delighted. that is what this song sounds like. the album is honestly never the same after this track; even its finale, the duo "mother plus" and "french", seem to hit harder ("french" itself a furious reprise of the earlier "eightball"). it's as if they're kicking and punching with wild abandon, knowing they will soon end and summoning every last bit of their energy to preemptively punish their own killer. they are the screaming before silence; the flood of endorphins before nothing.

i have listened to this album (and specifically "double apple") more times than i can count; not that i count that sort of thing anyway. i think t.a.g.a.b.o.w. just understands something about dynamics, about tone, about utilizing the past to texture the present, that many artists have not yet reached. either way, it absolutely delights me.