Last week’s Flashback was apparently snowed out, but it’s back this week with an uncharacteristically rousing song from the veteran “slowcore” band Low.


[from “This Week’s Finds,” February 20-26, 2005]

“California” – Low

How much to keep sounding the same and how much to evolve and explore is a question that faces all bands that manage to stay together for more than a few years. Remain too much the same and risk staleness (“There’s a fine line between a groove and rut,” as Christine Lavin once sang); change too much and risk alienating fans who like how you sound already, thank you very much. And in the indie rock world, any change that smacks of “accessibility” is treated with the harshest of scorn, for reasons I have never quite figured out. In any case, here’s Low, a band from northern Minnesota that cultivated a devoted following through the ’90s while giving new depth of meaning to the word “slow” in the so-called “slowcore” genre. And here’s a song from their latest CD, The Great Destroyer (Subpop Records) that moves with a nice crunchy, toe-tappy bounce. This is not the first upbeat song the band has recorded by any means, but so far they remain indelibly associated with their brooding, slow-burning material. Me, I’m enjoying the grit and intensity a band that knows slow brings to a peppier number. On the one hand, I love the big, fat, but still ambiguous chords that open the song, and drive its center; but on the other hand, check this out: right at the moment in the song where songs that have these kind of big, fat chords will break into a bashing, cathartic instrumental break (at around 2:00 here), Low, slyly, retreats into quiet–instead of big bashes we get a slow, ringing guitar and gentle harmonies, which simmer slowly together before delivering a final almost-bash. Pretty cool. The MP3 is available on the Subpop web site; the CD was released in January.

ADDENDUM: “To this day, Low continues to create and record interesting and unique music,” says the band’s web site. The trio has not, however, put out an album since 2007. In fact, two of the three members–vocalist/guitarist Alan Sparhawk and bassist Steve Garrington–are currently doing business as another trio, Retribution Gospel Choir. That band’s second album just came out in January.




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