Album Reviews

Low – Drums And Guns

(Sub Pop) UK release date: 2 April 2007

By the time any band get on to their eighth studio album, you pretty much know what you’re getting. So, fun as it would be to convince you that Low have gone all Eurodisco with a SAWesque backbeat and irritatingly catch choruses, of course they haven’t and Drums and Guns is more of the glacial, minimal post-rock soundscape you’d expect from the boys (and girl) from Minnesota.

Low are, in many ways, one of those does-what-it-says-on-the-tin bands, who sound exactly as you’d expect, like a gathering storm over a bleak industrial wasteland, dark and dirty and yet somehow incredibly chilled at the same time. You wouldn’t mind the Apocalypse coming if the last hour sounded this good.

From Alan Sparkhawk’s low and drawn-out vocal over opener Pretty People, through the creeping electronics of Belarus, as he repeats the name over and over again, to the finger clicks and slowclaps that begin Breaker, this is a icily wonderful album. The feeling of abandonment on the edge of a ghost town of long-closed factories, dark clouds gathering above and nowhere left to turn.

Dragonfly is the grinding of industrial plates, as far from gossamer wings as you can imagine and yet somehow just as delicate. Minimal in its beauty and slowly rusting in the acid rain. Sandinista is as playful as they get, two minutes twenty-two seconds of something that, while not exactly possessing a tune, certainly carries itself along.

Always fade, as if taunting us with the name, is one of the faster tracks, hypnotic tribal drums giving it an almost danceable quality in the dark corners of the industrial disco, but you know you’re dancing alone. Dust on the Window carries on the theme, lost in the dark somewhere everyone else has long since left.

Hatchet is the closest the album could have to a single, with even a little electronic riff sneaked in there to cheer things up. It’s only lulling you into a false sense of security of course, before Yoru Poison jumps in with its barely more than a minute of deep South blues to darken your soul. Things are getting darker as the night draws in, Take Your Time’s impending piano doom sounding more like a warning that you don’t have any left than an offer to sit back and relax. In Silence conjures up images of lost Joy Division performances, found accidentally in a forgotten alley known only to the ghosts of dark electronica.

And then we’re into the home strait, stripped back to absolute basics for Murderer, a Low lullaby for the (near) end of the day. This is Sparkhawk at his glacial best, slow, low vocals over minimalist beats. We finish on Violent Past, hypnotic factory noises over layered vocals, bluesy and gothic again to clock us out at the end of the day.

Of course in many ways it’s more of the same, baiting the naysayers who will tell you if you already have seven albums that sound like this, what’s the point of another, but they’re missing the point. Music this sparse, this abandoned and this beautiful… you can never have too much of it. It’s kind of heartening that they keep all thirteen tracks around the three-and-half minute mark too, as if trying to placate the radio stations. If radio ever sounded like this I might listen to it more.

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