Dallas, Texas natives True Widow accomplish a rare and distinct feat on their third album, Circumambulation. They create long, slow, deep, repetitive tunes that fit the genres of shoegaze and ambient pop, but they do so with three instruments and little in the way of effects. While all that sounds like a recipe for boredom, the end result is more of a trance than a nap.
Circumambulation starts off with some thunder sounds, which deceptively does not foreshadow the rest of the album’s technical expectations, but it does introduce the general tone. The bass is low throughout, and the drums focus on the floor tom or are otherwise sparse and heavy. Lead number, “Creeper,” features a riff that perfectly fits the title of the song with minor-key quarter notes picked deliberately. D.H. Phillips’s voice is smooth and carries a hint of inebriation. On “Four Teeth,” bassist Nicole Estill gets a chance at the mic, and her delivery fits the music just as well as Phillips’.
From start to finish, Circumambulation stays at about the same tempo, the same two or three chord riffs per song. The atmosphere is the same as well, sounding like it’s created by a live room, with little control over the natural reverb. This is especially evident on “Trollstigen,” in which the drums boom just a little more hollow, the bass drones a little bit deeper, and Estill’s voice howls a little more eerily.
There may not be many overdubs on Circumambulation, which implies that these songs will sound exactly the same way live. True Widow is the kind of band you would expect to stand around on stage, not veering an inch in either direction for the duration of their set, and the audience will likely behave in kind, bopping heads in time, remaining stubbornly awake. There is a place for bands like this, though, and few are as effective at delivering this level of controlled insomnia as True Widow.