Minnesota slowcore pioneers LOW release their tenth album The Invisible Way on March 19th. Produced by JEFF TWEEDY and recorded in WILCO’s Chicago-area studio, this album stays true to form, with intensely personal vocals (mostly by Alan Sparhawk but a few tracks feature his wife Mimi Parker) over minimal guitar and drums, with the occasional organ or piano. Read more about the band’s origins in NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION’s recent interview with them. LOW’s music is sad, wistful, and always intense, and the band distinguishes itself by what it doesn’t tell you and by what they choose to leave out.
The Invisible Way opens with Plastic Cup, a meditation on what becomes of our society’s trash years from now; what will someone think when they find the plastic cup used for testing urine for drugs. Probably the best track of the album is So Blue, which features Mimi delicate voice over gradually swelling drums and piano. Fans can submit images, via the band’s website, that the song inspires. (They intend to use these for a music video.) The crescendo of the song comes right at the end, you can’t help thinking of someone walking away, forever.
This album is obviously written by a mature band, and has some of that looking back and nostalgic reflection that comes with twenty years of a musical career. Just Make it Stop has Mimi singing “You say I’m something I’m not/But I’m not what I see.” That track features A Ghost is Born-era WILCO style piano. On My Own has fuzzy, effects laden guitar that also nods to JEFF TWEEDY‘s influence. Holy Ghost has Mimi singing about a holy ghost that keeps her hanging on, and the gentleness of her voice keeps it from becoming a lamentation. She sings about how she “can tell something’s wrong.” You’ll never get a real resolution or neat ending from LOW, and that is what keeps their music beautiful. It can take time and several listens to appreciate it, but that is what endures. So draw the blinds, take the phone off the hook, crawl under the covers, and start staring at the ceiling, as Alan sings on Mother, “for forever/we’ll have time.”