Young Widows - "Young Rivers" (In and Out of Youth and Lightness)
Louisville trio Young Widows have spent considerable time both living up to and living down their influences. Singer-guitarist Evan Patterson is renowned for his time in post-Botch combo Breather Resist, and the stripped down, taut sound of the band’s first two releases earned a lot of understandable comparisons to Jesus Lizard. With In and Out of Youth and Lightness (and no, we won’t chew over the title’s implications for too long), those sounds are detectable but to a lesser extent. Perhaps it’s even fair to say they’ve been sublimated, for the group’s sound now is less acerbic and more dark, moody, and occasionally swarmed with abjection.
These nine tracks boast a sound that’s both spare and full: spare in instrumentation and arrangement, and full in production. And indeed, it seems often as if the songs come to life more through sonic detail and aural shape (a variety of distortion tones, drum sounds, reverb ranges, and the like) than in compositional changes of direction, harmonic depth, or hooks. This doesn’t, however, make the music dull. Instead, there’s something compelling about the way Young Widows use these details – a shimmer, a hum, a scrape – for drama rather than relying on the often cheap dramatics heard in “heavy” music. Even on the flag-waver “Future Heart” – which occasionally recalls mid-period Fugazi – there’s a melancholy remove and mild psychedelia that pulls away from the conventions that often define this area of music (usually dubbed post-hardcore).
I suppose some might hear this as passionless or plodding, but the narcotic effect of In and Out of Youth and Lightness is ultimately what makes it interesting. Superficially, songs like “Young Rivers” or “In and Out of Lightness” churn and pound; but the control and restraint give them more power than they might otherwise achieve. And by the time the band close the record with “In and Out of Youth,” it’s hard not to hear Patterson’s haunted refrains as a channel to latter-day Swans. Nice to hear a young band understand how to conjure emotional power without suffocating their music.