A groundbreaking, electronically shredded rock record from these Duluth legends. Low started as a slowcore band, and while they’ve messed with chilly, fractured electronic sounds before, this album commits fully to that artistic direction. Listening to these songs is like looking into a mirror that’s been thoroughly smashed, with each and every piece put back into place. Thick bass, static, processed vocals, lush synths form the bedrock here. The music is heavy, dark, pointed, soul-searching, unpredictable, glitchy, noisy, heartbreaking, and gorgeous. Twenty-five years and twelve albums in, this might be the best and most audacious work Low’s ever made, and that’s saying a lot. RIYL Radiohead’s experimental stuff, Lambchop’s FLOTUS, Andy Stott, James Blake, Ian William Craig, Yves Tumor. Favorites: 1 (after safe harbor), 3, 5, 8, 11. FCC WARNING: 1 (maybe?), 6.|
1. *(3:43)—FCC, maybe? (The press sheet says there is one but I don’t hear it.) Blasts of static, cut-up voices. Deep, thick bass. Loud, swooping.
2. (6:23)—Slow, insistent kick drum compressed like a 64kbp MP3. Ghostly vocals with jagged reverb tails. Glitchy guitars. Long outro with droning, deep vocals. Play with next track.
3. *(5:49)—Slow beat. Unsettling, swerving vocal sample. High torch song singing.
4. (4:49)—Slow. A wall of pops and clicks. Vocoder vocals. Calms in the middle before the practically beatless “drop.”
5. *(5:29)—Slow, lush beginning. Anthem-like group vocals. Break with very soft piano and guitar, and a long droning finish.
6. (3:57)—FCC (s***). Big, slow bass thumps. A pop song drowning in sludge. I’m starting to imagine Future rapping over this.
7. (3:31)—Low-lying forest thunderstorm noise, faint voices. Eerie.
8. *(4:18)—Fragile, soft guitar. Gentle, vulnerable singing. Reminds me of Grouper. Gets heavy at three minutes.
9. (3:37)—Slow. Bouncing, glitching percussive noise. Clicking piano loop. The group vocals could have come from an eighties pop song, albeit a very slow one.
10. (3:33)—Slow. Like some weird mix of doom metal, choral music, and chopped & screwed.
11. *(3:53)—Mid-tempo. The pop hit. The rhythm like a trash compactor. “Before it falls into total disarray / you’ll have to learn to live a different way.”