Low, "Things We Lost In The Fire" (Kranky)
The latest album by Minnesota's masters of the ethereal and slow finds the
trio adding a couple surprises. The opening number, "Sunflower," not only
notches the beat up a notch, it also sports a rhythmic foundation that
pushes and pulls against itself. It opens in a familiar guise, as one
strummed guitar delineates the basic architecture of the song. But with the
entrance of the drums, a motion begins to occur not unlike the subtleties
of windshield wipers slowly getting in and then out of sync with the rhythm
of a turn signal. Granted, it's not not a huge change on most scales, but
given the adherence to minimalism that has been the band's stock in trade,
it's significant. However, everything else remains as it has been
throughout their nearly decade long career. The heart and center of their
sound are the voices of Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk, singly and in duet.
The spare harmonies evoke deep emotions, from the melancholy to the
spiritual. An incredible resilience in the compositions and arrangements
allows the simple components of a voice or two and a strummed guitar and
occasional drum or keyboard to assume the proportions of a vast cathedral.
Producer Steve Albini has been guiding Low over the course of their last
few albums, as they've grown past the label of "slowcore" into a world of
their own. By any label or measure, this is gorgeous and powerful music.
-- David Greenberger
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