NBHAP Rating: 4,4/5
Ones And Sixes
Label: Sup Pop
02. No Comprende
03. Spanish Translation
05. No End
06. Into You
07. What Part of Me
08. The Innocents
09. Kid in the Corner
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
After over 20 years of existence as a band that’s basically compiled of a married couple, it’s only human to get to the feeling of being artistically exhausted at some point. Therefore, the question of What Part Of Me, a central piece of Ones And Sixes, LOW‘s 11th studio album, is a legitimate one: What part of them is it that we don’t already know?
Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, along with bassist Steve Garrington, have created a very distinct voice over the years. They haven’t necessarily been the most sparse, the slowest or the most desperate of their kind. But the sheer fact that LOW‘s career goes on, despite the limited ways of expression that slowcore usually provides, is proof of their exceptional status as songwriters and musicians.
Not only do they keep on releasing records of frightening class, they also manage to evolve on very subtle levels – artistically reflecting the years passing by, the struggles endured and constantly motivated by the search of finding strength and beauty in the most inconspicuous things. After the Jeff Tweedy produced The Invisible Way from 2013, Ones And Sixes now presents the Mormon couple in a more restless place. At the same time, it might be one of their finest.
Starting with the nightmarish, neonlight brightness of Gentle, LOW set a stoic mood from the beginning. Often it’s the sparse rhythmic section that sets the contrapoint to the fragility of the perfectly intertwined voices of Sparhawk and Parker.
Of course LOW are operating safely on their usual terrain as well. Near the end of No Comprende we get close to their slowcore roots: single crashing drum beats underneath longlasting, distorted harmonies and Mimi Parker, singing in all her gentle beauty about the house being on fire – it’s a distant voice at first, only slowly getting clearer, stepping out of the mist and still somewhat outside of place and time, so that it might as well stem from the depths of our own subconscious.
It’s probably no coincidence that the aforementioned What Part Of Me, a song going on about the central question of “What Part Of Me Don’t You Know?”, is not the only moment in which LOW get close to pop on this album. There’s a certainty even within the most struggling and doubtful lines that LOW drop these days. A certainty that stems from the ups and downs that come with making music as a married couple for over two decades. As Mimi Parker recently pointed out, you can’t really separate the band from the relationship at this point: “I guess the reason this band has stayed together is because we are married. And we’re committed to that relationship […] Honestly, if I was just another girl in the band, it wouldn’t have worked. We would not be together.”
LOW developed a unique majesty over the years. One that is now topped by the rough beauty of Ones And Sixes. Try and get the haunting Spanish Translation out of your head, try not to fall for the folk storytelling of Lies, try to resist the persistent rock called Landslide and try not to press repeat at DJ – chances are low.
The impact of this band is an auratic one. It’s not only a product LOW sell – though it is of course one – but an elevated piece of ‘something more’ with an aspect of undefinable mystery that is mostly lost in pop music these days. May it be rooted in their spirituality, their close relationship or their outstanding songwriting – it doesn’t matter in the end. If LOW keep on doing what they’re doing, this world’s a better place.