One Track Mind: True Womanhood – “Dignitas”

True Womanhood - Magic Child

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MP3: True Womanhood – Dignitas from Magic Child Digital Single (2009)

True Womanhood have taken direct aim at one of the main limitations I initially appraised in their sound, namely a lack of diversity.  Without deviating from their dark and moody musical stew, they wring more refined permutations, nailing laser-precise shades of grey in their music to keep things always fresh and vital.  This maturation over a short period of time puts them, in my eyes at least, in rarefied air: they manage to take early, lofty expectations and praise and burn through it as fuel, evolving fast enough to keep pace with the landslide of praise.  And then outrun it.

To be brutally honest, part of their development is due to the fact that they have just gotten better at their respective instruments/roles.  Thomas Redmond’s vocals are still a downtuned, somber affair.  But this go around, his voice seems much more agile and versatile.  No doubt some of the credit for improvement lies with J Robbins, who TW did vocal tracking with in Baltimore.  Melissa Beattie’s bass work is more confident and firm as a foundation, Noam Elsner’s drumming more taut and expressive.

The density of TW’s sound has also greatly increased (despite the departure of guitarist Ross Kerr), with the number of different textures spiraling towards infinity thanks to an array of sound samples and effects that create a murky, mysterious, and lush aura.  This is unsurprising considering their proclivity for unique sounds (“Five-Colored Hands” on their 2008 self-recorded demo), and the fact that much of the recording happened at Death By Audio, Brooklyn home for the similarly-named effects pedal empire with Oliver Ackermann of atmospheric rockers A Place To Bury Strangers.

To my ears, “Dignitas” is the stronger of the two tracks on this double A-Side single; this is more a credit to “Dignitas” than a diss on the great “Magic Child.”  The title has been often ascribed to mean dignity, though in reality there is no direct English translation. Dignitas is a concept derived from ancient Rome, once thought to be the calculable sum of an individual’s personal influence. Ironically this has also been used as the name for an infamous Swiss assisted-suicide organization. I’m not quite sure which meaning they are invoking, but I’m leaning towards the latter with some of the lyrical turns “Dignity call on me,” and “What’s final is final,” not to mention the haunting despair of the track (remarkable even by True Womanhood’s standards).

The track is a complicated network of intertwined lines, darting vocal harmonies and dissolving riffs.  The steady pulsing backbeat of Elsner’s drums and Beattie’s bass line flows forth like lava, providing the only real constant, and an almost hypnotic forward momentum impelling the track towards the inevitable.  The slow-burning growth takes their moodiness to cathartic new heights.  The huge crash of distorted guitar layers are backmixed behind the vocals, roaring like a nearby waterfall, while the mid-track interlude has a sexy sway about it that reminds us that underneath it all is this strong, catchy skeleton of pop.

All summed up, you’d be a fool not to cash in on this free download.

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