After a decade of softly steering their ultra-minimalist sound it would appear Low have gone all out rock on us.
Few would imagine the Minnesota Mormons would have upped the tempo quite so on this, their seventh album, though it does perhaps capture somewhat more of the trio’s energetic stage presence.
From first track Monkey there’s a denser, more expansive feel to Low’s output – from singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawk’s newfound guitar crunching to singer-drummer Mimi Parker’s more colourful and characteristic vocal efforts. Quite a change for a band best-known (if not by name) for their hushed rendition of The Little Drummer Boy used in the all-conquering Gap advert of festive seasons ago.
Indeed, it’s a full three songs before Silver Rider settles in to that tenderly maudlin and celestial echo reminiscent of their earlier work – albeit with a substantially more grandiose guitar.
It is perhaps not so surprising given that producer Dave Fridmann, best known for his work with the Flaming Lips, is back on board for a second successive album. And perhaps the time is right that Low departed from their subdued and down-tempo template. Still, it takes a brave band to depart so confidently from their trademark sound, and it is reassuring to know that they’ve grown without losing that ethereal grace fans expect.
Elsewhere Step features hand claps and peppy percussion amidst fuzzy guitar thrashing, while Walk Into the Sea and Just Stand Back show this is a band on top of their game and comfortable in their brave new world. California is chorus-heavy guitar pop, while the mellotron-fueled Cue The Strings shares that same spiritually anthemic quality as Mercury Rev‘s Deserter’s Songs. Then there’s a cautionary tale of love over money in Death Of A Salesman and the rock-rousing, and appropriately named, When I Go Deaf.
Surely one of the early forerunners for album of 2005, The Great Destroyer could well prove Low’s all-time high.