In their early days, Low were known to obtusely turn the volume down at gigs rather than up, so that their audience was forced to listen to them. Perhaps that’s why they’re so called, named in a defiant, low-volumed protest to the ramshackle, turned-up-to-11 grunge bands of the day. Or perhaps it’s because the audience would often sit on the floor at their shows, again in defiance of the crowd surfing and body slamming that was commonplace on their circuit. I imagine though that they’re called Low simply because they have the knack of mentally bringing you down.
Low inhabit an arcane, sepia-tinged world where time slooooooows down, crawls to an eventual halt and, with a lethargic burst of lung-bursting effort, rolls into creaky reverse. Not for them the modern day currency of of a sampler or sequencer or ProTools production. Heck, they’ve only just discovered electricity. Low’s is a world where Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris are king and queen, where major chords segue into minor chords over the course of marathon-lengthed songs that belie their actual three and a half minutes and where an Everly Brothers harmony aces all. Listen carefully and you might hear the faint whirr of an old tyme 78 cranking up ethereally in the background.
They’re hard work, are Low. Their current album Double Negative has wormed its way quietly into the critics’ ‘Best Of 2018′ lists but I found it a bit slow, a bit samey and as tortuous as a month of Sundays. Perhaps I need a second listen. Perhaps I need to listen to it once, in all honesty, all the way through without feeling the need to tap my watch face and check that time was indeed moving forwards before giving up at track 3? 4? 9? I dunno. Perhaps I’ll do so after removing this pencil from my eye. Their Christmas album is a bit cheerier, the go-to hipster choice for those seeking a Mariah and Slade-free festive period, but it still has its treacly moments.
If you want to indulge in a little Low, may I point you in the direction of their slo-mo, downbeat shuffling take on The Smiths’ Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me. Soaked in reverb, bathed in pathos and moving majestically between Johnny Marr’s majors and minors, it’s fantastic. Gothic cowboy music at its very best.
Low – Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
Or you might want to try their achingly hearfelt take on George Harrison’s Long Long Long. The quiet Beatle’s original was never the most upbeat of tracks to start with but Low take it somewhere new. It sneaks under the radar and ebbs and flows, falls and rises and falls again with double vocal dynamics, scrubbed acoustic guitar and a droning keyboard that gently noodles it off and out into the ether.
Low – Long, Long, Long