Low - review of Trust
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Low, Trust [Rough Trade]

Some bands reach their initial vision of greatness, achieve what they wanted to, and cling to their one solitary idea like leeches. Some people can’t work out any way past the formula that worked for them way back when. Low's music has seemed impervious to change, too, but Low have grown and flourished without radically altering what made them stand out from the crowd in the first place.

And, without doing a disservice to their several other amazing albums, what a delightful thing they have grown into. ‘Trust’ has been branded Low’s ‘Deserter’s Songs’ by some people, suggesting it is a magnificent way to cap their rise through the ranks. In my opinion it’s their most refined and confident album yet, but also offers further evidence of the way that their entire recorded output overlaps and interlocks so gracefully. A career as one fluid movement. These things aren’t supposed to happen any more.

This thirteen track album starts off with ‘(That’s how we sing) Amazing Grace’, and it’s obvious at this early stage that the decision to revise the production team has been a wise one. Before, it helped Low to work with producers who would more or less capture the band as they played (Kramer and Steve Albini chief among them) but now there’s a sense of using the studio as a tool and not merely a workspace. Alan Sparhawk recently stated ‘we tried new things, and we took some risks’ which is an accurate assessment of the record. At no point however did he say ‘oh, we sound like ELO’ or ‘let’s get the Royal Philharmonic in, gang’. The band who redefined economical songwriting, and thrive on space in their music, know enough not to burden the songs with weighty over-embellishments. So there may be more going on but it’s mostly under the surface. Subtle little things, not unreasonably.

Of course, production is nothing without quality of material and there is no shortage of that here. This record is thirteen strokes of complete brilliance. There are rich folk-pop numbers like ‘In the Drugs’ and ‘La La La Song’; there are pieces of driving drone-rock like ‘Canada’ and ‘Last Snowstorm’; there is eerie avant-rock like ‘I am the lamb’ and ‘Shots & Ladders’. On 'Trust' Low do breezy singalongs, but balance these out with bloodshot slo-mo trance-outs. Mostly though there are slowburning melodies waiting for you to succumb, and all bound with the stunning trademark combination of Alan and Mimi Parker’s voices. Which is business as usual. Then there’s the lyrics. Low are capable of no-frills direct emotional content with their lyrics, or they can take a creepy surrealist bent. The words on ‘Trust’ are another perfect balance between the intimate and the intimidating. If for no other reason, then you must hear this to discover how the throwaway pop phrase sha-la-la is turned into something unsettling and deeply sinister.

After every record, some critic somewhere must say Low have reached the pinnacle, only for them to top it. Expectations were high following their magnificent 2001 album ‘..The Fire’, and I doubted, shame on me. Low deliver again, creating something which is new and refreshing yet retaining all that they were. ‘Trust’ will be very high on my personal list of favourite albums of this year, certainly, for it’s marvelously evocative and vivid songs and masterful sense of pace. It's utterly compelling listening. Low matter.

-- Craig Scott


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