Hello fellow humans, I hope you’re well. It has been another good preparatory gig week for me. Earlier in the week a dear friend of mine from Liverpool asked if I wanted to come up and visit him. To sweeten the offer, he also proposed we see the band Low, who are performing at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral. Now, if you have not heard of Low that is understandable, and if at first you don’t quite like their music I will understand that too. Low are often referred to as ‘slow-core’, which was a lazy tag given to a group of bands in the 90s who played markedly slow music; and I do mean slow. With Low I’ve spoken to many people who can’t get past the snail-like tempo, but once you do you immerse yourself into some of the most sublime music created in this and the last century. I mean that sincerely, and say sublime not just to mean exceptional but awe-inspiring, near transcendental music. For this weeks mix tape I’ve complied a primer of Low’s twenty year career in seven songs. I ask you, please, spend time with these songs, do not just listen once, but listen over and over and allow the beauty of each minor sound to reverberate inside you.
1) Try To Sleep
The first track off their second most recent album, C’mon, ‘Try To Sleep’ has been a constant feature of my listening since I heard the song. More jangly and upbeat than a lot of Low’s music, there is something endlessly wonderful about this song.
For several albums around the late 90s/early 00s, Low were produced by underground stalwart Steve Albini, who captured Alan Sparhawks guitar sound better then anyone else. ‘Immune’ maybe not have the epic moments Low are capable of but it has the warm and deep sound that make them so comforting to listen to.
From the latest album The Invisible Way, this is a breathtakingly beautiful song. The marriage between performance, craft and production have been defining elements of Low’s sound for twenty-years, and ‘Amethyst’ show this beautifully.
Quintessential Low; ‘Caroline’ has everything you come to expect and adore about Low. Gentle sound, slow tempo, perfect song craft, and, most of all, Alan Sparhawk and Mini Parker’s vocals playing off one another’s to create probably the most lush harmonies ever recorded.
One would not expect lyrics about losing ones hearing would work all that well, given the person is operating in a medium of sound, but that contradiction is what makes Sparhawk’s words so moving. A simple song about humbling oneself to all that surrounds you and not giving in to obsession.
I wish I had words that could describe the sound of this song, but even the greatest of poets would struggle.
7) Violent Past
The last track is more fierce sonically than what is associated with Low, but even fierce for Low is gorgeous, and soft in relative terms. Even when varying their instrumentation and sound this is clearly a Low song.