Young Widows seek beauty and mortality in noise

Sludge hammer
By REYAN ALI  |  May 3, 2011

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It's not much of a leap to imagine Young Widows hanging out in a funeral home. For their third album, In and Out of Youth and Light (Temporary Residence Limited), the trio took their ineffably grim noise rock to the still active Ratterman Funeral Home in their home town of Louisville, Kentucky. With the studio portion run by producer Kevin Ratterman, this station of dead bodies and vintage wallpaper housed a far more relaxed session than the stressful weeks they spent laying down 2008's Old Wounds at Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou's GodCity Studio in Salem. Guitarist/vocalist Evan Patterson particularly enjoyed listening to their in-progress recordings on the big porch outside the home. "At times, we'd go in, and there'd be a session going on downstairs, and people outside smoking cigarettes and hanging out," he says over the phone from Louisville. "It's kind of interesting, looking at people. You can see in their eyes [that] they're there for completely different reasons than why we're there."

Released last month, In and Out of Youth and Light is Young Widows' most subtle effort yet. Their distortion-coated rock retains its imposing sensibility while sounding considerably less deranged than in the past. Slow-burn builds take precedence over out-and-out ruptures of weirdo punk squall; when a good build does ignite, it makes for a stunning portrait. Patterson serves as a distant soothsayer, ominously repeating phrases and offering warnings. In this interview (as in others), the frontman admits that his interest in blues music shaped In and Out (around the time of Old Wounds, he became "obsessed" with Skip James and John Lee Hooker), and you can really hear it in "Right in the End," with its careful pace and empty space making the æsthetic that much creepier. "In the past couple of years, I've become more into the idea of repetition and songs being more minimal and allowing parts to breathe and repeat to get to this state of understanding within the song without listening to it several times. I've kind of fallen in love with the idea of an eight-minute song that only has one or two parts, but there are always other dynamics, melodies coming in and out — all these layers, but everything's based around one idea."

Starting with their death-fixated band name, Young Widows have always been into examining the consequences of mortality. All their record titles — the first album was 2006's Settle Down City, Old Wounds — refer to aging or losing youth. Patterson, now 29, is aware of this theme's prominence, and he examines it through the prism of his career path. "Our subgenre that we're playing in is not an easy lifestyle and makes you feel immature at times, so you're stuck on this path of living out a dream or artistic goal when everything else in your life is suffering because of your passion. I'm trying to figure out a balance of getting older and playing music I want to play because I'm never going to be playing music that's successful on the level of having a steady career."

And even with all the complicated misery that Young Widows feed off and regurgitate, he finds an underappreciated beauty to this sound. "From my perspective, I slave over these songs, and the notes and arrangements come out to something that is really beautiful to me and relaxing. It obviously has a mood, but if I didn't think it had beauty to it, it wouldn't allow that mood to show through."

YOUNG WIDOWS + MY DISCO + DISAPPEARER + NOW DENIAL | Great Scott, 1222 Comm Ave, Allston | May 8 @ 9 pm | 18+ | $10 advance; $12 doors | 617.566.9014

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