Album of the Week: Low, 'Double Negative'


Low, 'Double Negative'
Low, 'Double Negative' (Levin Haegele/Sub Pop Records)
Album of the Week: Low, 'Double Negative'
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There's no way I can be trusted to write an objective review of this album. Over the years I've connected with Low in multiple ways, more than perhaps any other local artist. Last week for example, was the anniversary of the sudden death of my hero BBC DJ John Peel back in 2004. The closest we ever came to meeting was when a few years before I'd been listening to his show on the computer here in the Twin Cities while he hosted Low at his house for a session. I emailed and asked for a shout out, reminding Alan Sparhawk of the band not to forget the silverware! Hearing Peely say my name and quizzically read the message was a magical radio moment for me to share with the band. I'd hung out with them just before they were going to the UK with plans for the Peel session, and had asked them to steal me some of the great man's silverware. They didn't but I don't hold it against them, I love these guys.

The station has a unique relationship with them too. They're playing one of the last shows we will ever put on at The Fitzgerald Theatre this week, and we're streaming it. In Chris Riemenschneiders recent book about First Ave he said that the "Current effect" can be exemplified by our support of Low, who had never played the Mainroom until we came along. Though still based in Duluth, these guys have always been bigger in Europe than here, in part because of Peel championing them. It was very gratifying then to see the UK press herald this album in ways that is not often seen for a band on the 12th album of their 25 year career:

Uncut Magazine gave it 9/10; "...their biggest step forward to date."
The Guardian 5 out of 5 stars; "The most important and devastating album of the year'"
Even Pitchfork, perennially looking to the NEXT big thing, gave it 8.7; "Bold, like a discovery of a new mutation of still recognizable DNA."

Multiple comparisons have also been made to Radiohead's Kid A and Bon Iver's break through. It was mainly recorded at Justin Vernon's April Base studio and here in the Cities at The Terrarium. And it's produced by BJ Burton, who's recently worked with Bon Iver, Hippo Campus, and Francis and the Lights among others. It's a true album, elegantly paced with every track linked together as if it's meant to be one long piece. Perhaps this would be the best way to present it, but we'll have to see how they do integrate it into a live show. It will not easily fit in to their accustomed trio set up of drums, bass and guitar. Mimi hardly plays any drums on this album and the guitars are mostly distorted beyond recognition.

The resulting soundscape becomes a language of its own, sometimes sounding scary, appropriate for this week! One loop I particularly like was a large motorbike idling, distorted, slowly, menacingly being revved. But don't be too scared by the first track, which makes it sound like your system has 'blown', it gets more coherent and structured as the album goes on, although never falling into anything like a verse/chorus pattern. In fact what should be the centerpiece track, #7 is little more than a quiet drone for several minutes. But by tracks 8 and 9, the beautiful Low harmonies come to the foreground again. Then the final track "Disarray" stands out as the signature song; "Before it falls into total disarray, you'll have to learn to live a different way." Might be my favorite album of the year, but I'm biased, how about you? It's getting time to make those lists!

Watch Low perform their 'Double Negative' tour live from the historic and majestic Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul, Minn. on November 2, 2018. The show is expected to begin around 9:00 p.m. CDT.

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Low - Official Site

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