Low

It took me more than a while to love Low. It hasn’t been at all a love at first sight band.

First time I heard of Low it was because of some lazy journalism (sometimes it can help), in Italy at the end of the nineties.
I read them associated to Morphine. Someone must have confused LOW-rock, which is what Mark Sandman has always told Morphine played, with the sLOWcore that Low are always reported to have invented. Plus both bands are trios. Very lazy.

Slowcore, as any musical genre neologism, beyond the name is an empty word, Low themselves have always denied to be part of something that doesn’t mean a lot, it goes without saying to have invented it. No surprise why.

There is nothing worse that being introduced to a band with a comparison to something you love by mistake. You expect something, then don’t like what you hear. Often forget to disconnect it from the music. Wrong, distract associations bring to confusion.

I kind of filed Low for some time as “they’re not my cup of tea”. But I kept reading about them and they always come out of review checking anything I’d want from a favourite band.

I tried Low again in 2001 listening to Things We Lost In Fire a minimalist album that, to date, ranks among their best (read my favourites) yet not enough to click on me at that time. They worked in the subconscious, note after note, growing inside me.

In the meanwhile I repeatedly tried to catch them live. Described as one of the most emotional and intense live trios, they are a “must see” act. I failed several times. ATP festivals, don’t look back series, Barbican shows, proper tours, for one reason or the other I could never go.

When The Great Destroyer, probably their most successful LP, came out there was a split in the music world. One of those album where someone praise a change of direction, some other a lack of creativity. Pitchfork to name one who loved their past, marked it with a 5.5.

I read reviews before getting the album, unforgivable error since I avoided and forgot the album and when I finally got to hear The Great Destroyer I loved it. Its history is recent but it shows the potential in it and escaped the dust of times. The album is the perfection of Low 2.0.
Low gave a twist to their music since the previous, Trust, three years before, when they started turning the volume up a bit.
It contains some great songs, a louder guitar, more curated vocal parts all without betraing their essential style. The second track,California, is probably my favourite Low song.

My appreciation started to emerge from the subconscious to come to surface.
It added the final bit when I came across the wonderful rarities box set, A Lifetime of Temporary Relief, containg CDs and DVDs including a cover of Pink Floyd Fearless that challenges the original. It was the last brick to build the solid house containing me and Low music.

I loved Drums and Guns, the their latest album for few more months. Next year C’mon will break a four year silence with new Low material I am eager to listen to.

Now a proper fan, I decided I wouldn’t have missed Low live for no reason. I had to wait a while but miracles happen.

In the strangest of the tours, the trio came to UK to play three cosy dates in out-of-track cities. No London, Manchester or Glasgow. One was at the lovely Junction2 – The Shed in Cambridge. Unmissable and unmissed.

The perfect venue for the perfect band, a passionate audience and a wonderful acoustic.

A cheerful band too, you don’t expect from a, erm, “slowcore” act. A crystalline performance that left speechless a good part of the audience for a good part of the show.
One of those rare gigs I looked forward for the three songs I had for the photos to finish quick so I could go back to my comfy seat and immerse into the quiet wonder.

Alan Sparhawk Gibson Les Paul has the best guitar sound I heard all year. Wonderfully analogic, Lo-fi coming out of few essential rusty pedals and small ampli. Compared to the times the band played very quiet with the audience sitting on the floor in absolute silence tonight wasn’t that quiet, which was good.
It reminded me the other 2010 best guitar sound, Sam Coomes live at the Hoxton Bar & Kitchen with an outstanding Quasi performance.

Alan‘s wife, Mimi Parker, standing in front of her drum kit is probably my visual imagery of Low. Her minimal, slow pace beat, coped with the bass is responsible, most of anything else, of the slowcore term.

She sings, of course, and the vocal harmonies she is able to sing with husband are, instead, a representative characteristic of Low music.
The mix of rich vocals with stripped down arrangments made Low famous from the beginning.
The sound got richer with years, the latest albums are louder and to what people of  Cambridge could experience this evening, with a setlist mainly centred on more recent tunes, they are getting better and better.

Recent critically acclaimed album by Robert Plant, Band of Joy, covers two Low songs from the Great Destroyer, Monkey and Silver Rider. Not sure those covers match the splendour they have been rendered tonight.

When it happens that, as a band, you move from covering classics to classic covering your songs, it means you are becoming a classic.
Low demonstrated it with self-confidence tonight.

Low are here [website][myspace][Facebook]         

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Photo tip

As much as the Junction has the stickiest venue floor of Cambridge, likely of the entire East Anglia, (never put your bag, coat or everything in the pit floor if you want it back and usable), the Junction 2 also known as The Shed is the poshest of Cambridge theatres.

A wooden floored square hosts the stalls, in front of a same width nice stage, sometime (but not always) separated by the audience with a narrow photographers’ pit.
I was there, the only snapper if you don’t include the 15 DSLRs shooting from the first two rows. Photography strictly forbidden said a sign on the door. Forbidden to photographers, in reality, anyone else took pictures throughout. Junction security is a pain, second only to Shepherds Bush but I have already complained I want repeat.

There are also two gallery levels, the second of which is a special secret you shouldn’t tell anyone because seeing a gig up there is a pleasure. If you wait for the red dressed guys to walk out a second, you can also take some full stage back shots as the ones opening and closing this review. Mount a 100+ mm lens to get the perfect angle. 

On the pit, I loved the side white spotlights but you know know what I think, apart from very small pubs the lights of a venue are all up to the technician and what the band wants.

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~ by Valerio on November 29, 2010.

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