DOUBLE NEGATIVE (Sub Pop/Flying Out)
They come from Duluth, Minnesota, have been going since 1993, and these days the “group” is just life and musical partners Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, both of them Mormons. Their “slowcore” music is a take on country rock that makes the leisurely pace of the Cowboy Junkies sound like it’s freaked by speed. And their new album is awesome.
Do they wash in their clothes, or ride around on bicycles, bugging people about their beliefs? Who knows? They certainly carry no obvious remnants of religion into their music, which is as singular as can be, and is so emotionally weighty that it’s like medicine for the emotionally disturbed.
Yes, dear reader, this isn’t music for the faint-hearted, and may prove to be an album that gets pulled out only rarely, when especially strong medicine is required. And Double Negative, as the name spells out definitively,
isn’t a picnic in the park. What it does is take Low’s trademarked sound and put it through the blender.
What makes it so beguiling is the contrast between the sonic interference caused by brutal sound manipulation and the fragments of the duo’s gorgeous singing and songs that are left floating around like ghosts.
Where most musicians work with the classic building blocks of song as performed by stereotypical line-ups,
Low work against the grain by deconstructing; they all but demolish those structures with great blocks of noise. This disconcerting wall of drone and textural obfuscation illuminates what’s left of song. Like a redacted document, the blocked-out letters are untouchable, so what’s left becomes precious, vital, hinting at unknown horrors and pleasures.
Sonically, Double Negative is an album of dynamic extremes, but there’s something hushed and hymnal at its core. On a track like “Dancing & Blood” it’s like a heart beating so hard the blood vessels are set to burst, and it’s both musically bold and original and emotionally potent. It’s a record that can join the exalted company of other rare pleasures like Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden or Scott Walker’s Tilt: albums that change the way we listen to music, albums in a genre of one.
IF YOU LIKE YOUR MUSICAL MEDICINE STRONG, AND DOUBLE NEGATIVE WORKS A TREAT, THEN HAVE A LISTEN TO MY BLOODY VALENTINE’S
1991 CLASSIC, LOVELESS.