Review: Low – Double Negative
Last month saw Low return with their 12th studio album, Double Negative. Declan O’Dwyer gives us an insight on what to expect from the stalwart indie rockers.
Hailing from Bob Dylan country, Duluth Minnesota, the group Low recently released their 12th studio album Double Negative. Their previous record 2015s Ones and Sixes, left a good impression on me especially the tracks ‘No Comprende’ and ‘What Part of Me’.
Having come very late in to Low’s world, that album was the first one I listened to. I was expecting an indie, alternative type record in a similar vein to the last one. I was very wrong. This became apparent at the beginning of the opening track, ‘Quorum’. The sound is kind of fuzzy and muddled, which is tonally and vocally reminiscent of Bon Iver’s 2016 LP, 22 A Million. The fact that the album was recorded at Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) home studio may have been an inspiration.
They released a trio of videos for the first three tracks, which you can watch simultaneously as one piece which I would recommend. The video for ‘Quorum’ can visually explain it better than my words can. The video for Dancing and Blood takes you to a very strange nightclub. Sometimes it’s good to just go with these things. It’s a really cool track, which builds tension both visually and musically. This leads us to the third track on the album, which is more accessible. ‘Fly’ is the album highlight. I absolutely love Mimi Parkers’ vocals.
The best way to describe this trio of tracks is imagine if Terence Mallick was directing a short Pink Floyd musical film. This is really well thought out experimental stuff. Most groups of a similar ilk would end their album with those three tracks.
‘Tempest’ is 1970s Kraftwerk, meeting up with who they might sound like today over coffee. ‘Always Up’ is a gentler piece of music with the vocals in the background for the first half of the track. This track works because it offers a bit of respite, while not moving away from the general tone of the album.
On ‘Always Trying to Work it Out’ the vocal harmonies between Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker I can only describe as gorgeous. Like the previous track, it’s more traditional in its structure, although this is much superior.
We’re getting a bit dark and weird again on ’The Son, The Sun’, which features no lyrics. A precursor of what’s to come maybe? Wait no, a man strumming an acoustic guitar. I wasn’t expecting that. This little ditty is called ‘Dancing and Fire’.
It’s getting all muddled and distorted again on ‘Poor Sucker’. The closing track ‘Disarray’ is the strongest of the final three tracks. The album doesn’t really end on a bang, yet this is a minor quibble.
For a band 12 albums in to their career to be so fearless should be inspiring to groups of a similar vintage, or any group full stop. Every so often an album comes along which gives you a glimpse of where music can go, but without losing what makes you love music in the first place; songstructure, melodies and vocal harmonies for instance.
This is a real cliché but this album rewards the listener when you go back for seconds. It can take a while to get in to it. Anyone expecting a similar alternative/Indie album like its predecessor may be disappointed but overall, another excellent addition to their discography.
Songs worth putting on repeat: ‘Dancing and Blood’, ‘Fly’ and ‘Always Trying to Work it Out’.