Low – Drums And Guns (2007): Review

low

Produced by Dave Fridmann
Label – Sub Pop

Looking for a bright, airy summer collection to accompany those strolls through leafy country parks? Then the suggestion is, don’t choose Alan Sparhawk and his collective’s latest offering. It’s music for rainy cold nights, perhaps with a roll of distant thunder to highlight the stark musical drone that peels the sheen off any positive detailed personal reflections. That’s not a deliberate criticism by the way; Low fans know not to expect a Joyfest, but the band’s eighth release is even more deliberately dark, an accumulation of distorted noise, Guitars stripped away and replaced by frosty synths and anonymous drum machines. The singer’s opening couplet preludes the shadowy intentions, as “Pretty People” sets the tone with “All soldiers are all going to die, all little babies, they’re all going to die”. Many of the songs question Faith, war, and death, and Sparhawk’s anguish and torment emphasizes immense mistrust. Whilst previous releases have seen long, drifting washes of music, almost cinematic in their detail, “Low” contains shorter stabs of sparse instrumentation filled with electronic loops and odd sound effects, leaving the melodies totally anchored down by Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s vocals.

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“Low” is in parts a demanding listen, occasionally too tortuous for comfort. One sometimes wonders where Sparhawk’s mind is wandering as he compares people to dragonflies and rambles that there’s “No such thing as dragonfly pills”. The songs are generally more memorable when Parker joins to harmonise, particularly on the softly insistent “Take Your Time” and sweetly seamless “Violent Past” but overall it’s a disjointed affair, uncomfortably bleak, and although the decision to move away from traditional instrumentation in favour of a more artificial soundscape shows progression, there’s a feeling of derailed detachment; and that the listener is imposing on the artist’s private misery with the world, unable to offer the slightest solace.

“Drums And Guns” is the soundtrack for an exclusive club of miseries.

6/10

Track Listing
1.”Pretty People” – 3:01
2.”Belarus” – 3:17
3.”Breaker” – 2:53
4.”Dragonfly” – 3:44
5.”Sandinista” – 2:22
6.”Always Fade” – 3:57
7.”Dust on the Window” – 4:12
8.”Hatchet” – 2:18
9.”Your Poison” – 1:13
10.”Take Your Time” – 4:18
11.”In Silence” – 2:46
12.”Murderer” – 3:43
13.”Violent Past” – 3:38

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