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True Widow As High as the Highest Heavens and from the Center to the Circumference of the Earth Review

Album. Released 2011.  

BBC Review

Texan trio delivers a treat of a second album, turning slowcore dynamics up to 11.

Mike Diver 2011

Don’t let that unwieldy album title put you off asking after True Widow’s second LP at your local record store: this is one of the finest rock albums of the year so far. Taking cues from grunge, slowcore, stoner-rock and shoegaze, the Texan trio have crafted a nine-track opus which is as exquisite of elegant detail as it is exemplary of skull-rumbling riff.

Strangely, while they clearly share DNA with rockers from the sludgy end of the spectrum, one of the first acts to be summoned by the sounds of this record’s opening brace is rather less-known for exploring sonic extremities. It seems bizarre reading it on screen, even weirder than making the parallel in one’s mind, but Low are here in spirit, if not in volume. Listen to Blooden Horse and try not to be transported to the beautiful slow-march melancholia of the Minnesota minimalists. Yo La Tengo, too, are worthy of mentioning: like the Hoboken indie legends, True Widow utilise both male and female vocals in a way that allows neither to dominate to the detraction of the overall product.

Although it begins with a clutch of lengthy cuts, As High… strikes upon immediacy with Skull Eyes, a beautifully succinct track that haunts like Autolux possessed by Slowdive at their heaviest. The vocals of bassist Nicole Estill drift wonderfully in the mix, soaked in reverb yet cutting cleanly to the heart of the listener; behind her, backing comes from DH Phillips, whose equally ethereal tones on this number lend it an airy quality (which seems impossible given every amplifier is evidently turned up to 11). Phillips takes the lead on the majority of songs, highlights from which include Wither, which could be a Mudhoney stomper played at half-speed (or even The Dandy Warhols on a real downer), and the grinding nine-minute climax of Doomser.

Despite myriad reference points to be heard across this set, at no point do True Widow come across like a blatant sound-alike of any single act. Which is, really, why this record is such a certifiable success: it has one recalling great stoner-friendly LPs from the past, while presenting a fresh take on music which, courtesy of its common reluctance to shift from second gear, has frequently been at risk of turning stale. It’s a real treat, so be sure to commit that title to memory should you be passing an emporium of musical delights anytime soon.

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