written by Chris Familton
Low return with a new album recorded in a 110 year old former cathedral in Duluth, Minnesota. It almost seems like a contradiction that a band known as one of the progenitors of the slowcore genre would utilise such a vast and cavernous space to capture their music but in actual fact it serves to impressively enhance the trademark intimacy of their sound.
Low have always been known for the richness of Alan Sparkhawk and Mimi Parker’s vocal harmonies and yet again they excel on C’mon. They have such sympathetic voices that they sound naked and exposed when you hear one of them on its own. You See Everything is a gently pulsing swoon of a song with a gentle swing that cradles their voices as they weave their intertwined magic over the top. Parker in particular delivers an absolutely mesmerising vocal on Especially Me with its swaying crawl of a tempo, an inspired string arrangement and her voice taking in gospel and deep soul influences.
If you’ve heard the version of Neil Young’s Down By The River that they did with Dirty Three then you’ll find much to like on this new record. They invest the same drama and emotional gravitas in these songs as they did on their version of Young’s classic track. Witches eases electric guitar into its orbit to build the tension of the song while a banjo grounds the song in americana roots. When the solo edges forward it feels like it is stepping into the darkness and open spaces of the desert. Dirty Three’s vibe also permeates $20 with its lazy and bedraggled guitar playing and the way they place musical accents to create a gentle yet dramatic rise and fall to the song.
The country vibe in Low’s music is omnipresent, even if it can sometimes be hard to hear. Whether it be the weeping lap-steel guitar of guest Nels Cline, the appalachian flavor of David Carroll’s banjo or just the ache in Sparhawk and Parker’s voices; the music always sounds rural and organic with some deep connection to the soil and the historical weight of musical traditions filtering through their hands and throats.
Nightingale casts an eye across at contemporaries Wilco and Beach House with its dreamy introspective shuffle and the whole tone of C’mon leans more to the personal and intimate moments in life. It feels like we are privy to some parts of the inner workings of the married Sparhawk and Parker’s world. It doesn’t feel intrusive and it comes across as possibly their warmest and most personable record to date, partly as a result of the content of the songs but also the environment in which it was recorded and the near perfect balance of warm hum and gentle grit that permeates C’mon – with glorious results.
this review first appeared on FasterLouder