True Widow – Circumambulation

For every good record there’s a perfect time to listen to, making it even better by giving it a proper framing. There are records that are perfect to be enjoyed whilst being with friends or partners. Others need to be listened to during cold, lonely nights to reveal their full potential. Some albums are the perfect soundtrack for springtime or hot summer nights. There’s a perfect time for every good record.

Unsurprisingly there’s also a perfect time, or rather situation, to listen to TRUE WIDOW’s latest album Circumambulation. Do you know these scenes in movies, where somebody just stands still alone in a crowd and loads of people around him move really fast so that it looks like the person is out of sync with the rest of the world? When you listen to Circumambulation via headphones in a crowded place and watch all the empty faces passing by, all those existences with hopelessness in their eyes, you will feel like the person that’s out of sync. Circumambulation is like a safe haven from the world’s insanity.

One shouldn’t be confused by the fact that Relapse Records, known for releasing extreme Metal in all its beautifully ugly forms, put out Circumambulation. The album is very far away from being an extreme record, speaking in terms of faster, louder, lower. In fact TRUE WIDOW don’t even play Metal, at least not in a blatant way. It is a dark, heavy band nonetheless, but these attributes are achieved in different ways than through blast-beats and guttural vocals.

Circumambulation is a very decelerated record. TRUE WIDOW stick to the same, highly effective formula throughout the whole album: a laid-back, slow, simple and repetitive beat, a massive foundation of bass, modest, just slightly overdriven guitar work and chilly male/female vocals yield eight fascinating, sublime songs that live off the conceptual reduction. Interestingly enough the pure, basic character of the instrumentation doesn’t get tedious, au contraire: The repetitiveness results in an almost hypnotic state, which is very captivating and hard to resist once the first seconds of the opening track are gone by.

It’s probably this ability that always brings in the terms Drone and “Stonegaze” when people try to describe TRUE WIDOW’s music, besides its slowness of course. And these attributions fit pretty good indeed, as does Post-Punk and Post-Rock. But also Kraut Rock wouldn’t be a wrong notion – listen to Neu!’s Hallogallo for example, the straightforwardness of the drumming is very reminiscent of TRUE WIDOW’s and also sound-wise the Texan three-piece has more of a 60ies and 70ies vibe going on than something in the vain of polished high-gain studio wizardry.

The guitar is reduced to a crunchy, twangy sound that gets along without the excessive use of stomp-box blatancy, just a bit of reverb and that’s basically it – which is probably the biggest discrepancy to “Stonegaze”. But ascriptions seem to be something TRUE WIDOW aren’t interested in anyway. Only the gloomy, intimate feeling determines the being of Circumambulation.

Speaking of the title: The word circumambulation describes the religious act of moving around a sacred object, a tradition known in many different persuasions like Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity or also Freemasonry. As so many aspects of the modern religions we know, circumambulation refers to the sun, the mightiest representation of god, with its origins dating back to very first forms of sun worship. Circumambulation is an imitation of this worship, orginally performed by ancient men and women to whom the sun was the greatest representation of god. In its core, circumambulation mirrors the movement of the sun in the sky, an imitation to express respect, worship and fear.

True Widow

True Widow

The lyrics of TRUE WIDOW‘s Circumambulation however do not deal with ancient pagan or religious themes, at least not on the surface. Instead a lot of the lyrical content deals with intimacy and interpersonal relationships, or rather with their downsides. Words and metaphors heavy with meaning explore the dark sides of human coexistence without being too simple, obvious or whiny at all. A great example is the track Creeper, with its short, laconic lyrics:

Well, I think I’ve done in my lover.
Yes, it’s there – it’s under the covers.
Yeah, I need to make my escape.
Yeah, you look like you could be that for me.
Wait. I think I hear it – it’s breathing.
Yeah, I cannot wait for you to see me.

Circumambulation by TRUE WIDOW is one of those records that can easily bring together fans of a wide musical range. Of course Drone, Post-Punk and Shoegaze connoisseurs will probably be into it. But the songwriting is so sophisticated and the sound so perfect that also fans of big mainstream acts of the gloomier kind like The XX, Interpol or Editors could easily enjoy Circumambulation. And the image of TRUE WIDOW sharing the stage with big acts like these doesn’t feel wrong. With this record the band definetely proved its ability to sound huge without watering down. This is soul music in the truest sense of the word.

TRUE WIDOW‘s Circumambulation was released via Relapse Records on 180g vinyl in 2013.


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