Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh, UK
Monday, 13 November 2000
It's a question of control; of levelling out imbalances, reining in excess and tempering passion with just the right amount of self-discipline. You would be forgiven for herding Minnesota minimalists Low in with the post-rock flock, those sombre-minded individuals who mistake turtle-paced noodling for soul-searing profundity. And certainly, a degree of patience is required tonight, particularly when set opener 'John Prine' yawns and stretches like a narcoleptic Tortoise, and 'Venus' threatens to replay the unabridged works of fellow chord-worriers Codeine in their monumentally slow entirety.
It's easy to grumble when confronted with such painstaking concentration. Rock'n'roll, after all, isn't about prudence; it's about the triumph of the primal over the cerebral and sane. But then Low, bless their creased brows, don't purport to rock. For Alan, Mimi and Zak, patron saints of all that is sad-core and slo-fi, proffer an alternative route to conventional rock redemption, a delicate path that delivers far more substantial rewards.
Ideally, Low should be unravelling their velveteen delights in a more fitting setting: the Vatican library, say, or better still some audience-proof, hermetically-sealed tabernacle. Instead, a constant succession of creaking toilet doors and explosive sneezes threatens to spoil tonight's rarefied atmosphere. Yet, despite such mundane interruptions, it remains virtually impossible to avert attention from the stage, such is the whispering majesty of this none-more-slow threesome.
Although Low's strength lies in their ability to distil what sounds like centuries of pain into every five-minute gasp of sadness, there is, crucially, an intangible warmth to be eked out of even their most discomfiting moments. Thus 'Long Way Around The Sea' (from the magnificent 'Christmas') avoids the po-faced pitfalls of other religion-based paeans and instead rejoices in its folksome sincerity, as percussionist Mimi Parker's sumptuous voice cradles each note like a cashmere shawl.
For Low, every chord is sacred; every carefully considered quaver held in hushed reverence. So even when the aptly titled 'In Metal' briefly gets all Mogwai on our asses - white-hot guitars duelling, slowly, like angry triceratops - Low still hold back, preferring to head indulgence off at the pass before retreating back to their cosy armchairs. It may bear little relation to rock as we know it, but by refusing to succumb to traditional temptations, Low are, in their own quiet way, subverting every law in the book. And, really, how rock'n'roll is that?