Low, "Canada" EP (Rough Trade)
It's good to know that Low aren't just a plain old album-tour-album-tour kinda band. For every annual or biannual Low album, there's always at least two or three interim releases across different labels (Tugboat, Kranky, Rough Trade, Subpop et al.), multiple formats (limited 7", EP, mini-album), and sometimes releases in collaboration with others (Dirty Three, Spring Heel Jack, Piano Magic). And that's before we even get to all of those compilation contributions. It's a dual dream and nightmare for enthusiastic fans that seek to own everything. Now, all you Low addicts (particularly those of you with a US residence) should add this latest UK EP to your wish list for that long-overdue 10 CD rarities box-set.
The EP's lead-track, "Canada," is better known as one of the killer centrepieces from current album Trust. It's an uncharacteristically soaring slab of psychedelic concrete, with a fuzz-cranked wall of guitars enveloping Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker's intuitively intertwined vocals. It's almost as if the diligent Duluth trio re-cooked the crunchy bits from their own "Dinosaur Act" (from 2001's Things We Lost In The Fire) and added in a blend of aromatic Eleventh Dream Day spices and a dollop of Yo La Tengo sweeteners.
Ever prolific spiritualised non-rock veterans
Eleventh Dream Day, Yo La Tengo, Mazzy Star, My Bloody Valentine, Galaxie 500
First of the unheard flipsides, though, is "Fearless," a cover cribbed from Pink Floyd's 1971 album Meddle. And by Low's previous credentials, it's a fairly straight conversion (check out their remarkable reworkings of The Beatles "Long Long Long" and Neil Young's "Down by the River," if you need convincing otherwise). But its near-jaunty folk-blues strumming and lilting vocals provide a welcome counterbalance to the tough gloom that pervades Trust as an album.
The third and final track is "Shot & Ladders 2," an alternative version, as the name obviously suggests, of the last song on Trust. Swapping Alan's lead vocals with Mimi's is a masterstroke, allowing her to turn the song from a doomy look through the abyss into an intimate wintry confessional. Musically it's a little lighter too, with the reverb-soaked guitars mixed down (until the very end of the track, that is) in favour of Mimi's slow percussion and a brooding bass-line from Low's undervalued third player Zak Sally. Anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing Mimi's rare B-side revision of Alan's "I Remember" (otherwise found on 1999's classic Secret Name) will know what beautiful spells she can cast on her husband's darkest songs. And come the inevitable Alan and Mimi solo albums (they've teased us with a few solo spots here and there, already), the latter's release would automatically invite investigation.
So yet another Low EP - featuring one glimmering calling card from the current album and two previously unreleased gems to add any avid collector's crown. Don't wait for the forever-delayed rarities compendium, pick up the trail right here, right now. You have nobody to fear but your bank manager.
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