Back in 2018, Low released Double Negative, an album that found the storied slowcore outfit breaking apart and deconstructing their traditional sound with the help of crushing electronics and layers of glitchy noise. The result was some of the most challenging music in Low’s discography — and some of the most compelling.
“Days Like These,” the first single from Low’s recently announced Hey What, makes it clear that Low — now just the duo of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker following the departure of bassist — aren’t done with the aforementioned experimentation.
The song begins with Sparhawk and Parker’s voice front and center, with sudden bursts of noise accentuating the last syllables of each line. This pattern grows increasingly distorted and overwhelming, as befitting the dour lyrics (“No, you’re never gonna feel complete/No, you’re never gonna be released”) — one wonders if Hey What will be a commentary on our current state of affairs in the way that Double Negative was — until things seem to reach a breaking point.
Which is where things get really weird, as “Days Like These” suddenly shifts into an extended ambient denouement that brings to mind the lush soundscapes of CFCF (and sounds truly unlike anything Low have done to date). If the song’s first half is a fierce pronouncement, and even condemnation of “days like these,” then its second half feels like an extended sigh of regret, and moment of reflection to figure out how we got here in the first place.
In any case, the song’s a clear sign that Sparhawk and Parker are still creatively restless, even after nearly three decades. And it leaves me all the more intrigued to hear the rest of Hey What, which will be released by Sub Pop on September 10, 2021.