Low are, to the best of my knowledge, one of those bands that just go out and do their thing over and over and over again. There’s nothing wrong with that necessarily, but it makes dipping in and out of their catalogue a little difficult, because you don’t know which of their albums are really good because you haven’t listened to all their albums. (See AC/DC and every other band like this.) I’ve heard literally one other Low album – and only maybe 15 slowcore records – and so I’m immediately in a bad position when trying to evaluate this in context.
But, like the other Low album I’ve heard, one thing I can say is that they know how to write songs. They are among the best songwriters in the slowcore world, to the best of my knowledge. And this is particularly important with a genre like slowcore because slowcore essentially relies on the aesthetic (the pace) and the songs and that’s about it. Anyway, this is a pretty great set of songs.
The other key thing is the aesthetic: does the really slow playing work? Of course it does with this band as they’ve been doing it forever. But they are particularly good at it, especially given that they don’t really have much else to go on – there’s no real reliance on conventional rock dynamics, for example. It’s just the three of them and the occasional additional instrument, with lots of space in the recording and plenty of drama created by the constrained performances and that space. The performances, the arrangements and the production all work hand in hand to create something that would be far less compelling if one of those things was changed.
Usually I’m the guy who says “this genre has existed for X years, why are we making such a big deal about this late period record?” And that’s sort of where I was at first with this one. But it’s pretty damn good and at some point its inherent quality (the songs, the production, the sparse arrangements) won me over. If I have to listen to a 21st century conventional slowcore record, this is the one I want to listen to.