Low - Double Negative (Album Review)

Tuesday, 25 September 2018 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Shelly Mosman

It’s not often that an album comes along and bowls you over into a state of sheer stupefaction. The Minnesota trio Low have always dabbled in minimalist experimentation, but their 12th full-length offering, ‘Double Negative’, cranks things up a notch. With Bon Iver producer B.J. Burton once again on hand, they manage to accomplish a giant leap forward without ever losing sight of who they are.

Our interest is piqued from the off as opener Quorum provides the kind of curtain raiser bands usually only dream of sculpting. The static racket is guaranteed to leave you scratching your head, or maybe it’ll have you leaping out of your armchair to check the needle for a giant wad of fluff. Those who live in the digital world might be pressed into checking a stream or re-downloading. From inside the void created by this curious noise, Mimi Parker’s vocals float forth. Low want our attention, and boy do they get it.

Dancing and Blood continue to build a creeping sense of fascination, where Parker’s heavenly tones sound muffled by a pumping heartbeat.

If you can imagine what music would sound like from within the womb you’re probably quite close. Upon closing, the track then segues into Fly courtesy of something reminiscent of OMD’s Joan of Arc intro.

Low’s unique selling point, though, has always been the wonderfully intertwined vocal harmonies provided by Parker and her husband, Alan Sparhawk, and ‘Double Negative’ doesn’t fail us here. Its closing cut, Disarray, showcases their biggest asset beautifully with lyrics that tell of evil spirits, while Always Up captivates with a sparse arrangement before their voices combine with ambient flecks that recall 10cc’s I’m Not in Love. The most memorable melodies, however, are provided by the spellbinding Always Trying to Work it Out.

But ‘Double Negative’ really draws its strength from its forays into largely uncharted territory. Tempest’s serene heart is like the eye of a storm, surrounded by a gentle barrage of melodic vocal distortion, while the desolate The Son, The Sun is blissful. Rome (Always in the Dark), meanwhile, possesses a subtle punch, with its percussion invoking a scenario of someone hauntingly pounding on your front door.

Low have been around for 25 years now, producing an album every couple of years, yet they’re disappointingly best remembered by some for their Christmas EP, and in particular its lead track Just Like Christmas. But ‘Double Negative’ sees them pushing the boundaries further than ever before, and it deserves a place at any table. These are not songs, they are wonderful, immersive experiences. Prepare to be astounded.

Low Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon October 15 2018 - BRISTOL Trinity Centre
Tue October 16 2018 - MANCHESTER Manchester Cathedral
Wed October 17 2018 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Tue January 29 2019 - ALBERT DRIVE GLASGOW Tramway
Wed January 30 2019 - BIRMINGHAM Town Hall Birmingham
Thu January 31 2019 - BRIGHTON St Georges Church Brighton
Fri February 01 2019 - LONDON Barbican

Click here to compare & buy Low Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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