Low - Hey What (Album Review)

Tuesday, 21 September 2021 Written by Graeme Marsh

Following the departure of bassist Steve Garrington in 2020 Low have, almost inevitably, remained as a duo. Now consisting of couple Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, the heart of the Minnesota group’s 13th studio album ‘Hey What’ is, of course, their irrepressible, ever-reliable vocal harmonies.

A newer factor in its success is producer BJ Burton, who is now on his third album with the band. It’s his willingness to push boundaries that Low previously hinted at but never pursued in earnest that gives them a renewed edge, with 2018’s superb ‘Double Negative’ featuring inventive touches that suggested the opening of Pandora’s Box.

By running guitars through synth pedals to breaking point, Low add something  intangible to their music—often simple songs written on an acoustic guitar—and elevate it to the realm of art that revels in textures, layers and warped sounds.

Apocalyptic opener White Horses introduces a record awash with mangled distortion and hulking experimentation; it’s like the sound of a huge metal structure being twisted and reshaped by a tremendous force. But those familiar harmonies are stunning, as they also are amid the staccato jabs that pierce I Can Wait.

The distortion levels get cranked up for More, while the fuzz coating Disappearing contributes to a track that sounds like a damaged record being played—don’t check your stereo, it’s meant to sound this way. Weirdest of all is There’s A Comma After Still, which sounds like a malfunctioning washing machine in the last throes of its existence.

Tempo-wise, there’s little change at any point. But, as tedious as that sounds, the creativity on display makes that consideration irrelevant. You simply cannot escape those amazing vocals. Seven minute cuts The Price You Pay and Hey are simple yet sublime, with the latter developing into one of the band’s finest ambient experiences. Days Like These, though, finds Sparhawk take the lead with possibly the most compelling performance on the album, the song’s melody ready to last a lifetime in the memory banks.

Quite how Low keep managing to defy all logic and craft essential album after essential album is a mystery. Along with ‘Double Negative’ this LP might represent the perfect storm, with few places left to go unless they decide to head off into realms of experimentation akin to Lou Reed’s ‘Metal Machine Music’. Hopefully they refrain from disappearing down that rabbit hole, because this level of intrigue is spot on.

Low Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon April 25 2022 - EDINBURGH Edinburgh Queens Hall
Tue April 26 2022 - DUBLIN Vicar Street
Wed April 27 2022 - MANCHESTER Manchester Cathedral
Thu April 28 2022 - BRIGHTON St Georges Church
Sat April 30 2022 - BRISTOL Trinity Centre

Compare & Buy Low Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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