Re­view: Low's 'Dou­ble Neg­a­tive' dou­bles down on an­guish

Sun.Star Cebu Weekend - - Content -

Do not ad­just your set. Your am­pli­fier or head­phones are not sud­denly bro­ken. If you are lis­ten­ing to the vinyl re­lease, the record player's nee­dle is not nec­es­sar­ily worn or full of lint. Though that's just what "Quo­rum," the first song on Low's new al­bum, "Dou­ble Neg­a­tive," will have you be­lieve. And then a bit of song No. 2, "Danc­ing and Blood," as well — but not its ex­tended "ocean liner foghorn" end­ing — and then for sure parts of the fourth, fifth and sev­enth tunes, and so on.

Recorded, like its pre­de­ces­sor, "Ones and Sixes," with pro­ducer and sonic shifter BJ Bur­ton at Bon Iver's April Base stu­dio, "Dou­ble Neg­a­tive" has some of the same char­ac­ter­is­tics, but squared: gen­tle melodies given a rough treat­ment, heav­enly har­monies of­ten ob­scured though oc­ca­sion­ally un­sul­lied, and lyrics where some­times your guess is prob­a­bly as good as what's be­ing sung.

"Leave my weary bones and fly," Mimi Parker sings, most ap­pro­pri­ately, on "Fly," the third song and the first where the sounds are less dis­torted if not less dis­qui­et­ing. "Tem­pest" feels like be­ing in­side a crash­ing car in slow mo­tion, hop­ing that it's just your hear­ing that's been dam­aged but that res­cue ser­vices are on their way.

Alan Sparhawk takes the lead on "Danc­ing and Fire," where a soft gui­tar strum and back­ing vo­cals like a chilly wind com­bine to form a typ­i­cally lan­guid Low pace and ac­cen­tu­ate the neg­a­tive — "It's not the end/it's just the end of hope."

Low have fre­quently al­ter­nated sim­pler sounds with ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. This al­bum is best summed up by "Dis­ar­ray," its clos­ing track join­ing the rhythm of a jack­ham­mer in a neigh­bor's apart­ment that some­times pauses for breath with lay­ers of beau­ti­ful vo­cals and words of wis­dom — "Be­fore it falls into to­tal dis­ar­ray/You'll have to learn to live a dif­fer­ent way."

"Dou­ble Neg­a­tive" is a record of its time but can't be faulted if we can hardly wait for these times to pass.

Low's 'Dou­ble Neg­a­tive' dou­bles down on an­guish

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