Sub Pop Records
Though so much of our love of music comes from rhythmic enjoyment and a strong sense of fun, there’s really something to be said for a record that makes you think. For Low this means not only pushing a few boundaries but those of composition too. While this record isn’t that accessible, it proves over time to be really powerful to hear.
All the buzzing rushes can feel like an audio error as the record starts on “Quorum” just before it starts to filter out into a mix of harsh tones and ghostly vocals. While it’s too abrasive at first, there’s an intriguing energy as it moves into later sections. If you hold out long enough in “Dancing And Blood” the track transforms into this dark and tense riff-driven beauty. Though it chooses to outro on a more creepy and ritualistic tone, it really doesn’t feel any less satisfying for it. These vocals also float right into “Fly” where they enter a kind of groove-harmony opera. Admittedly it would be fun to see them follow through more on these building energies, but all their experimentation at least means there’s something fascinating to follow.
Warped energy seeps out of the guitars and vocals on “Tempest” with a surprising ebb and flow, and turns the song into a constantly shifting ground for dynamics. As this gives way to more and more distortion and feedback, the song becomes nothing but a wall of crushing energy. Through the glistening woodwinds and synths of “Always Up,” Double Negative truly feels like more an art experience rather than simply music. Though this makes for something less overtly fun to listen to, it places the record as something deep and strangely heady to dive into.
This process is tackled in a much more pop-focused fashion on “Always Trying To Work It Out” as the mesmerizing chorus slowly gives way to blistering hits of destructive noise. By letting this feel like an evolution of the song’s emotion, Low truly breathe life into their weird but powerful songs. “The Son, The Sun” reverses this process as its ominous noise lays the bed for a liquid-like creep of vocals. With spirits floating by the song’s central meditations, it truly feels like you’re hearing someone be haunted.
Low’s masterful sense of space shifts this seamlessly into “Dancing And Fire” where Low have a rise in brightness to their music that is mostly hidden on the record. This also results in one of the record’s most open and catchy moments as they tap into a kind of larger-than-life rhythm. “Poor Sucker” rides this feeling right into an infectious loop and one of the few times that the record drops into a new bridge. This flow and a kind of momentum that is absent on the record really makes the finale feel fun.
This makes the stomping intensity of “Rome (Always In The Dark)” feel ethereal and grand in comparison to early moments of the album. As Low follow their habits in a more hook-driven direction, they create a song that really satisfies and holds its ambiance up as a fierce new way to compose songs. “Disarray” feels of two-minds after this song, as it both floats in a weird pop direction while carrying this feeling of explorative beauty. Their decision to really grime up the finale however has the track finish strong.
Words by Owen Maxwell