While Low’s music often unfolds at a glacial pace, the trio themselves are restless and unafraid to change things up. Which explains the existence of releases like Songs for a Dead Pilot and Drums and Guns in their catalog, releases that eschew the group’s funereal, meditative, and atmospheric style for something harsher and, dare I say, more experimental.
What ties all of Low’s music together, though, is the band’s intense essentialism. In Low’s music, nothing is ever wasted, random, or tossed off. Each note, sound, and silence feels deliberate, intentional, and necessary — and because Low is so focused on their music, even their slowest and most lethargic songs come to demand a similar level of attention from their listeners.
That being said, I suspect that even longtime fans used to Low’s demanding aesthetic might find that the upcoming Double Negative (out September 14 on Sub Pop) takes things too far — if the first three songs and their videos (all of which you can watch above) are any indication, that is.
Low’s core elements — e.g., minimal rhythms and guitar lines, haunting vocals — are still present, but they’re distorted, twisted, and refracted. Meanwhile, roiling waves of noise and distortion, cavernous tones and reverberations, and cut-up conversations create a disorienting sonic backdrop far removed from the band’s storied and influential slowcore aesthetic. (The songs’ videos, with their bizarre and stark imagery, add to that impression.)
It is a bit off-putting at first, even for this longtime fan. But then something clicks — the plodding bassline around which the rest of “Quorum” coalesces, “Dancing and Blood“ ‘s ascending guitar melody, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s inimitable voices — and the extra demands that Low’s new songs have placed on the listener are suddenly as worth it as ever.
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I've also written for Christ and Pop Culture, ScreenAnarchy, Filmwell, and Christian Research Journal. I pay the bills by creating beautiful user interfaces and websites for Firespring and Red Bicycle.