Search The Line of Best Fit
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Widowspeak – Widowspeak
01 September 2011, 10:01 Written by Simon Tyers

There’s at first something of the Warpaint about Widowspeak. It’s an easy and reductive thing to write about a Brooklyn-based (though actually formed in Tacoma, Washington) female fronted band who approach alt-pop from an anthemry-averse angle, but both have on initial impact worked out a way to strip down interlocking art-noir guitar textures to a point free from overdone reverb or needless dissonance while reinforcing a naturally smoky, enveloping shimmer to their sound. However, the trio’s self- titled debut exists in its own space, retaining a personal emotiveness while remaining hauntingly low-key.

The overriding feeling is of a lone voice lost in the haze, not so much musically – Woods’ Jarvis Taveniere does a fine production job making voice and every instrument clean, distinct and direct – as in the evocation of a mindset jolted by experience and a residual darkly skeletal headspace. It helps they have an effective trump card in the vocal tone of Molly Hamilton, the sort of smoky drawl that instills its own sense of longing, whether fuelled by heartache or life disenchantment. Comparisons can and will be made to Mazzy Star’s spectrally disturbed Hope Sandoval, especially on the back of the slow motion fogged out atmospherics of ‘Harsh Realm’, in which Hamilton mournfully and repeatedly intones “I always think about you” as if she really doesn’t want to any more. That said, from a similar period it’s as directly redolent of the languorous nightscapes of Madder Rose or a becalmed Throwing Muses, especially the latter on the almost straightforward elastic college rock of opener ‘Puritan’ or ‘Fir Coat’, the sort of song Tanya Donelly must kick herself after hearing. The distant squeals permeating electric folkified patterns in ‘Limbs’, conversely, sound like a direct offcut from Cat Power’s Moon Pix, but if Chan’s not going to do that sort of thing any more…

All around guitars seem to shiver as Hamilton’s memories serve to disturb her. ‘Nightcrawlers’ is driven by Fender-like twangs before changing gear upwards into a paranoid rush of a chorus, a discordant solo and a hypnotic circle of Hamilton murmuring about “nightcrawlers take the bait”. That twanging guitar motif crops up occasionally throughout, as befits a band who recently covered Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’, adding a country leitmotif to the night terrors of ‘In The Pines’ to make it sound like a soundtrack cut from David Lynch’s lost road movie. The woozily wistful ‘Gun Shy’ is the most evocative subversion of hip swinging late 50s/early 60s poise, borrowing a slowed down surf/flamenco riff as Hamilton evokes shotgun imagery and wraps coy seductiveness in cotton wool.

As things drift away with ‘Ghost Boy’ using a tempered version of the Be My Baby beat under single note guitar into a misty reverie led by eerie keyboard sounds, it’s readily apparent that Widowspeak don’t need to shout. Blissfully dreamlike in its subtlety but never allowing itself to settle into staid routine. Whether coming over as resigned to forlorn fate or working against all hope, the album feels like a strangely enticing glimpse into an ethereal darkness on the edge of spooked art-indie’s town.

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