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Low
C'Mon Lev Harris , May 2nd, 2011 05:45

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It's been rather unfair that Low have long been tagged as leaders of slowcore, a genre of one band. True, they've never really felt the need to make music that is remotely uplifting, but to use this against them would be to do Low a disservice. As any fule know, a slower tempo provides gravitas without inevitably making the songs miserable to listen to. Unsettling yes; chilling yes; but depressing? Far from it. The name of their ninth LP, C'mon seems to hint at this growing frustration. After the curveball of last album Drums and Guns, Low have reverted to the sound with which they seem most comfortable, the melancholic utterances found on 2001's magnum opus, Things We Lost in the Fire.

The lyrics on C'mon, while not as poetic as some of their previous work, nevertheless retain their ruthless directness. Rooted in raw sentiment, they're possessed of a certain beauty that rarely fails to move, something that has become a Low trademark. What other band would repeat "my love is for free" and "I'm nothing but heart" as the refrain to two different songs? Each word seems to be penned in anger but then delivered through a tone of resignation by Alan. It's certainly simple, but the minimalism here is deliberately thought out, not a mere affectation.

Yet, strangely, the emotional outpouring on C'mon seems to prompt a question that could only be directed at a band of Low's nature; at what point does the emotive lyricism stop being cathartic and instead becomes more contrived? An example could be "Oh nightingale don't you cry", which appears, on first listening at least, to be neither original nor particularly potent as a metaphor. But ultimately, there's a sense of mystery that surrounds Sparhawk's words that only serves to make his lyrics all the more poignant.

The musicianship itself has enough dynamic and harmonic variety to fill out a church, while soft and fragile enough to not feel out of place in a pub. This is the majesty of Low, this blending of the transcendent and the everyday. It comes as no surprise that for C'mon, the band returned to the same converted Catholic Church where 2002's Trust was recorded. Sparhawk has described how the "space and warmth and intimacy" of this experience dictated the way in which they approached the record. This thought remains eerily prevalent by the end of the album, leaving you hanging with the urge that "something's turning over/ Get out while you're young". C'mon doesn't so much demand your attention as your patience. Listen to it, leave it, come back to it again; it rewards multiple listens. And if this is Low's idea of music, to make you want to, or feel like you have to listen to it again and again to understand it fully, then they are doing a pretty good job of it.

man
May 2, 2011 12:56pm

Speaking of understated growers, did you review Apocalypse by Bill Callahan? You interviewed him. Not that it really matters if you don't I suppose. Just my OCD talking.

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Nick@BC
May 3, 2011 11:18pm

I think Try To Sleep is still available as a free download at Low's website. Witches is doing it for me right now. Good album and review. Half decent Callahan interview in Mojo this month.

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