Sunday, 28 November 2010

Low @ Brudenell Social Club – 16.11.10

I first decided to listen to Low when I saw a link to them on Mogwai’s website. The detail was annotated with the comment ‘in a perfect world, they would be everybody’s favourite band’. How could I resist?

Now, many years later I’m a dedicated fan, and occasionally those words come back to me, as they did was I watched them recently at Brudenell. There is something quite perfect about the band and the music they make; understated, simple and achingly beautiful. They appeal to both the heart AND the head, which is rare too, and it’s dark and quiet and slow, but they have a sense of humour to match the tender heartbreak.

For those unaware of them up until this point, they immerged in the 90’s and came to represent the genre of ‘Slowcore’, a term they, naturally, hated. Amongst the dirgy, noisy grunge bands they purposefully played incredibly quiet, slow and ponderous music, to piss people off more than anything. At early gigs played in raucous redneck bars, when struggling to be heard over the jukeboxes, pinball machines and rambunctious audience, they would actually turn DOWN. But the joke kinda worked, and the wonderful music they created was extremely minimalist, but with a unique ear for melody, the focus of which was the beautiful harmonies between Guitarist / Singer Alan Sparhawk and Drummer / Singer Mimi Parker.

Having taken that idea as far as they felt they could over increasingly brilliant albums, they have, over the last 4 or 5 years, very successfully reinvented their sound with drum machines, organs, and, god forbid, distortion. But shows, such as this one always feature the bare bones of the band and as such it’s fantastic to hear some of the newer songs as they were probably written. Tonight Low are not promoting anything in particular but are apparently gearing up for a new record (Wikipedia has them down for an album in 2011 called ‘C’mon’ but I cant find anything else about it, bar a small announcement on their own site). So we get some songs that are either incredibly old or brand new – I’m not entirely sure. They treat us to a 12 minute run through of ‘Lullaby’ from their debut album, a perfect example of their early sound and approach. It was brilliant to see the usually bouncing Brudenell entranced in near silence – wonderful. See the video below, and you’ll see you could’ve heard the proverbial pin drop (though in this case its ‘glass smash’.)

Elsewhere we were treated to astounding run through of more recent material, ‘Monkey’ being the most special, as well gentle renditions of tracks from their last album ‘Drums & Guns’ (see 'Violent Past'). That genuinely unique atmosphere Low create was in full flow tonight, and they seemed in good spirits too.

It’s a hard gig to review really, coz basically they play slow and beautiful music and create a wonderful, warm feeling in the room. I had a fantastic night, despite been heavily jetlagged. Perhaps it was that state of tired confusion that led me back to the original Mogwai quote. Low are really not most people’s cup of tea I would say. They are the ultimate slow burners. And at the core of everything they do, I can’t help but find some kind of perfection. What a wonderful world it would be if they WERE everyone’s favourite band…

Dean Freeman

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