Live in Portland December 5, 2017 | Mississippi Studios
Texan three-piece True Widow have carved out a loyal following in a cultural substrata overrun with flash-in-the-pan names. The band have referred to themselves as “stonegaze,” for lack of any other word to sum up their hazy, down-tempo fusion of psych-rock, metal, and experimental vibes. Since being founded in 2007, they’ve shared bills and toured with the likes of Kurt Vile and Boris. Over the course of four full-lengths, they have stayed loyal to a certain formula of dirge-like rhythms, enveloping atmosphere and gazey melodies; their memorable 2013 album Circumambulation would be a good place to start for an introduction. That and their last album Avvolgere were both released on Relapse Records.
True Widow’s big draw may be what they choose to leave out. They take a minimal approach anchored by droning and plodding rhythms, calling to mind every subgenre of heavy music out there from past and present, from doom metal to krautrock. True Widow’s atmospheric, moody take on hard-bitten, fuzzed-out rock seemed to signal how they were trying to fuse slowcore and shoegaze with heavier influences. More than that, though, they evoke the bleak beauty of the landscape they call home. They’re about the general feeling that organically comes out of getting lost in the soundscape, like Estill’s haunting voice rising from the dust like a fata morgana, Philips’s scorching like the sun on pavement. Tense drones and growling feedback go pretty well with spare lyrics that sound like invocations. The eerie rumblings and echoes that undercut the songs like a dirty haze are part of what attracts such a diverse audience. Fans of lo-fi and experimental fare stop to listen, for sure. Though True Widow’s songwriting chops are not necessarily more interesting than any of the other dozen American bands who could fit comfortably alongside Dead Meadow at a heavy/psych festival, the doomy ambience gives off a European mystique that sets them apart.