Monday 1 July 2013

True Widow - Circumambulation (Album Review)

Album Type : Full Length
Date Released : 23/7/2013
Label : Relapse Records

Circumambulation, album track listing:
  1. Creeper”
  2. “S:H:S”
  3. “Four Teeth”
  4. “Numb Hand”
  5. “Trollstigen”
  6. “I:M:O”
  7. “HW:R”
  8. “Lungr
On True Widow’s highly anticipated third album ‘Circumambulation’, the Dallas heavy ‘stonegaze’ trio hone in on their trademark syrupy simplicity with absolute perfection.  Equal parts drone, post-rock and shoegaze, ‘Circumambaulation’ is the band’s most, controlled, concise and realized effort yet.  Simultaneously True Widow’s darkest and poppiest record, ‘Circumambaulation’ is a moody triumph of a record perfect for both super late nights, and early Sunday mornings.  Rarely does a band capture the vibe of dreary haze together with sticky male/female harmonies so infectiously.  True Widow’s ‘Circumambulation’ is an easy top contender for record of the summer, if not all of 2013

Dan Philips – Vocals, guitar
Nicole Estill – Bass, Vocals
Timothy Starks – Drums


Genres be damned! Having listened through several times it is easier to state what “Circumambulation” isn't rather than what it is. It is not doom. It is not stoner, it is not post rock, it is not alt. rock, it is not sludge, it is not drone, it is not trip-hop. However... it has a little of all those genres and sub-genres in there. In fact, it may be easier to state that this sounds like no-one, but will remind you of many bands you know and love in different places.

So, the album opens with “Creeper”- sound effects to start and then a rather eerie and bleak riff is picked out. Mid-paced and sinister, this is good music to plan a murder to, or think about planning one at least. The band grooves nicely with a few tonal shifts and a lovely warm production. Deliciously dark. “S:H:S” treads similar territory in terms of pacing and percussive accents but the vocal vibe is more ethereal with the instruments offering light and shade. Much like when Neil Young plays with Crazy Horse, the groove is the thing here; simple and hypnotic.
Four Teeth” most certainly reminded me of a Twin Peaks kind of ambience. Lovely vocal here too. The atmosphere remains dark but is a little less oppressive than the first two tracks.

Numb Hand” goes with a slightly slower tempo with the guitars heavily distorted but not aggressive. It is certainly noisy, but it takes a laid back approach to the noisiness- a real novelty for those of us who listen to a lot of what falls into the metal end of the musical spectrum.
Trollstigen” is the longest track on offer here and is positively brooding- slow, slow building and with double tracked vocals. Minimal guitar variations and an insistent drum pattern combine to drag the track along. The guitars do change up into different riffs in the last two minutes or so, but it is all totally in keeping with the earlier established mood.

The instrumental “I:M:O” offers an almost hopeful sounding guitar intro, but there is despair lurking underneath, so the mood isn't lifted as such- the listener is just offered a glimpse of what might have been.  HW:R” is downbeat but almost strays into more mainstream sounds within its central refrain; kind of like Americana that has a very serious and unpleasant undertow. Introspective lyrics are hard to do well- but done well they are here. Male and female vocals trade well and expand the track nicely.

The spartan guitar that opens “Lungr” is backed by spartan rhythms but lush vocals. Lots of reverb, lots of analogue hum- a pleasure to listen to, even in the digital format I have for this review. I bet that on vinyl this sounds superb. Perfect music for the end of the evening, or a whole evening alone, this album is something quite different and wholly successful. If you ever wished that Tricky would do an album with more guitars or that you wanted something distorted, dark but not necessarily metal- this album is what you have been looking for. A mood piece that is both hazy and haunting. Oh, the genre is described as “stonegaze” by the way. I looked it up.

Words by : Richard Maw

As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links.  You can pre - order this release here in a variety of formats. This record is available everywhere from the 23/7/2013. Thanks to Becky @ Pioneermusicpress for the hook up