15th October | Trinity
Photos: Andy (@Birmingham_81)
Minnesota band, Low have been playing their bleakly-beautiful music for the past twenty-five years, railing against its bracketing as a rock sub-genre called slowcore in their early days and continuing to produce a body of work that has taken shoegazing into some interesting spaces since then. Their latest album, this year’s Double Negative ups the ante on the sonic abilities of their sound, taking it into distorted and innovative areas that work well with the strikingly effective vocal harmonies of husband and wife team, guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker.
Those harmonies are the crux of this trio, always giving their material a haunting, almost country-ish feel, while the guitar/bass/drum mix has delved into areas that are at times almost reminiscent of the moods of Joy Division (circa Closer), and, with their latest offering, the industrial crackling, overlays and ambience of Throbbing Gristle.
Tonight, at a packed, expectant Trinity, following a plaintive folky/country support from Nottingham duo, Keto, Low begin their set with the first number of the new album, the distorted beauty of ‘Quorum’, before those harmonies start complimenting each other perfectly on ‘No Comprende’ from their 2015 album, Ones and Sixes, the pulse of Parker’s drumming and the strong combination of Sparhawk’s guitar and pliable bass of Steve Garrington gradually descending into a hypnotic chiming grunge of discord.
‘Plastic Cup’ from 2013’s The Invisible Way is a dip into a 60s-type harmony, a clarity backed by the rising chime of Sparhawk’s guitar, and recalling a superbly accurate quote about them some years back as sounding like ‘a dark negative of Simon and Garfunkel’. ‘The Innocents’ from Ones and Sixes is a euphoric ride, Parker’s voice soaring over an industrial throb.
Apart from a few delicious dips into older albums – with Parker unfalteringly holding the notes over the languid country flow of ‘Holy Ghost’, again from The Invisible Way, the echoing pulsating drone of ‘Do you Know How to Waltz’ from 96’s The Curtain Hits The Cast and the shimmering harmonies and glistening guitars of ‘Lazy’ from their first album, 94’s I Could Live In Hope – most of tonight’s set is understandably from Double Negative with a handful from Ones and Sixes sprinkled here and there.
‘Tempest’ and ‘Always Up’ meld into each other, the distorted loveliness of the former segueing into the heavenly chorus and wall of pulsating white noise of the latter. The gorgeous rising epiphany of sound that is ‘Dancing and Blood’ from DN contrasts with the sublime overlaying of harmonies again in ‘Spanish Translation’ from O&S. The achingly-soulful ‘Lies’ from three years ago precedes the sparkling dreaminess of this year’s ‘Fly’.
And on and on. It’s a night of superlatives, as the aural experience created by these fine musicians deserves it. We are immersed in stunning soundscapes that hint at despondency while uplifting the spirit at the same time. As Sparhawk says before the last number, ‘Disarray’, pulses to its conclusion, despite all that’s going on in the world right now, they offer a ‘glimpse into eternity and everything will be alright’. Now, seeing as he and Parker are Mormons, you could see this in a certain light. But above all else they are not morons. So, it resonates. As does their music.