Low have always been a consistently good band who do their thing well. Their minimalism centres not on the boundless empty spaces of techno, or the riveting repetition and transformation of 20th century composers, but on a song-based approach fashioned from restraint and delicacy. Twenty-five years into their career however, Low’s 12th album is their most extreme sounding, yet one which immediately makes sense.
BJ Burton acted as producer on both this and Low’s previous record, Ones and Sixes, which now appears like the first steps towards to the immersive sonic space Double Negative occupies. That is to say this record sounds damaged. Bashed, bruised, beaten, bloodied, burnt and beleaguered. Rather than simply recording some distortions, Low have distorted the very recording itself. Burton’s contributions to Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, which also features a damaged media aesthetic to great effect, feel pertinent.
In the distance, through the haze, you can hear impressions of voices, drums, guitars, pianos, Low songs. Then occasionally – like halfway through Tempest – things clear up, and it feels precisely as if your head has emerged from underwater to either a moment of hopeful placidity or the eye of a storm. Aside from the fact that they have employed this deliberate grotesquery in such an elegant and musical way, it feels so wonderfully brave and emotionally apposite for the times Low find themselves in. A belter.
Words: Ian Lamont
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Bon Iver — 22, A Million