True Widow – [Album]

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

I have been, and probably always will be, a sucker for ridiculously long-winded, painfully detailed stories, sentences and names. Whether it’s David Foster Wallace’s unique and cerebral form of prose in his bible-length novel Infinite Jest with sentences that top out at over two-hundred words, the Mexican grindcore outfit Paracoccidioidomicosisproctitissarcomucosis, or A Silver Mt. Zion’s first album He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts Of Light Sometimes Grace The Corner Of Our Rooms, I realize I’m gravitating toward these pieces because of their monstrously, mouth-filling compilations of text. For me, there’s just something special about a phrase that you have reread at least two or three times before you can really absorb the language and what the artist is trying to say.

As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth is no exception. The title left me feeling giddy and I soon found that, like their album’s massive title, True Widow’s music has tons of miniscule yet important layers which require multiple listens before all the musical intricacies can be unlocked.

True Widow is not a band that focuses on complex chord structures or rhythms. They’re focused on creating a mood. As High As The Highest Heavens… is soaked with dreary reverb-laden guitar riffs and ghostly delay-heavy vocals. They’re a self-described brand of “stonegaze” music that hints at Brian Jonestown Massacre and My Bloody Valentine as influences, and I keep hearing Slowdive – the early Nineties shoegaze group – even though these two sound nothing alike in a side-by-side comparison.

What sets True Widow apart from the rest of those aforementioned bands is the crunchy guitar sound that Dan Phillips produces and the band’s penchant to repeat and repeat and repeat. In the album’s opening track, the band builds a solid base of crunchy guitar. This driving force only relinquishes its' command for a moment to introduce a melody that is then overtaken by vocals almost immediately. Nicole Estill’s laid-back and airy vocals ride over the rest of the music, gently following it rather than trying to command it. The second track “Blooden Horse” starts with one guitar riff that is repeated throughout the song, altered slightly here and there creating dissonance between itself and the bass line. Phillips does the singing here, and for nearly the rest of the album as well.

It would be hard to say that this album ever surpasses mid-tempo – it  rolls along at a leisurely pace, consistently – but “NH” really takes it to a new level for the album. Heavy, droney, and slow, the track mysteriously entitled “NH” is one of my favorites. It also happens to drive me a little mad every time I listen to it; the drums keep the guitars on a short leash, purposely holding them back as they try to break free of the maddeningly sluggish tempo that makes me feel like I’m trudging through a swamp.

As High As The Highest Heavens… is an album to listen to in a thunderstorm. It can make you feel hopeless and helpless, and I’ve found myself staring out the window more than once in a daze, absorbing the unique combination of gentle vocal melodies and harsh guitar riffs.


As High As The Highest Heavens And From The Center To The Circumference Of The Earth comes out on March 29, 2011 via Kemado Records. Pre-order it here on Amazon .

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