Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Low - The Invisible Way

Beast and Beauty

Low as a band has passed me by over the years, and on the bleak but beautiful strength of this 10th album I have compulsory catching up to do. Having ‘discovered’ Alan Sparhawk as a guitarist on the recent Retribution Gospel Choir release [and therefore researched and read about him] this latest Low album became a necessary listen. I have been struck by the mournful simplicity of the songs, like the brooding piano and pace of second track Amethyst, which is transcended from its dark lyricism by the beauty of melody and harmonising between Sparhawk and wife Mimi Parker. There is also the exquisite harmonising from multi-tracking Parker’s vocal on songs like So Blue. There is a folk sensibility in many of these songs which, as with So Blue, have a building anthemic layer that is genuinely rousing.

An example of the brooding lyrics wrapped in the beauty of melody and harmony is seventh track Four Score. All of the songs are suggestive rather than telling in their expression - atmosphere over description. This track is graced with the multi-tracking harmony of Mimi Parker,

Four score
You’ll tell me your
The stand
But none forgotten
Borrowed, bought(en)
And so

All in, all out of
Something worth everything
All in, all out of
Everything worth nothing

But none forgotten
Borrowed, bought (en)
And so

The next song Just Make It Stop is even starker in this lyrical/melodic contrast, again Mimi singing in multi-tracked beautiful harmony, words as bleak as,

You see, I’m close to the edge
I’m at the end of my rope
The rope is starting to thread
I’m trying to keep my hold

Penultimate and tenth track On My Own is full of wonderful contrasts. It contains a scorching Sparhawk guitar solo, all fuzz and feedback, and a juxtaposition of contrasting lyrics that baffle, from the middle chorus of,

How want turns to hungry
How hope turns to ‘no’
How fear turns to angry
On my own

to the closing line

Happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday, happy birthday

which is repeated eight times above the continuing fuzz.

The album closes on what by now is the requisite Low musical paradox of counter-balanced words and melody. On Our Knees presents its poetic musings on love and regret/loss within the soothing embrace of more Parker harmony. Gorgeous. 

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