Music

Low / Dirty Three: In the Fishtank

Wilson Neate

Low / Dirty Three

In the Fishtank

Label: Konkurrent
US Release Date: 2001-05-22
Amazon
iTunes
"Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise".
-- Jacques Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music

Low's Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have consistently put the lie to Attali's assertion and this mini-album recorded with the Dirty Three only provides more evidence that while Low's recordings may be subdued, unobtrusive, and often hushed, the emotive volume is always turned up high.

Under the auspices of Konkurrent's "In the Fishtank" series, Low was approached to record a half-hour's worth of material over two days whilst in Amsterdam for November 1999's Crossing Border festival. Also appearing at the festival were the Dirty Three, with whom Low had toured and released a split CD single in 1997. Consequently, Sparhawk and Parker invited the Australian trio to collaborate on the Fishtank recordings and six tracks were committed to tape.

Most of the songs blend the fragile, mesmerizingly slow melodies of Low with the string-rooted melancholy of the Dirty Three so seamlessly that at times it's hard to say where one band ends and the other begins. "Invitation Day" is outstanding in that regard as Warren Ellis' sorrowful violin joins in, weaving around the delicate, slow-motion harmonies of Sparhawk and Parker, but the fusion of creative identities is especially compelling on the gospel-tinged folk of "Lordy", the most uptempo -- although not the most uplifting -- number on the album. Here, the arrangement is expanded as Sparhawk and Parker's vocals and Ellis' violin are supplemented with banjo, slide guitar, and driving percussion, all of which feed the track's mounting tension.

The unhurried "Cody", on the other hand, is perhaps more identifiable as a Dirty Three track in that Ellis' mournful playing takes center stage, accompanied by a sparse drum pattern and ponderous bass.

The highlight of this release is a remarkable, nearly 10-minute rendition of "Down by the River". So many of Neil Young's songs seem to call for a Low cover and this one is a minor masterpiece, capturing the darkness of the original while magnifying and intensifying the fragility that underlies Young's best work. Beginning with the faintest fragmented noises -- brushed drums, a rumbling of bass, and a stirring of guitar -- everything coalesces beautifully with the arrival of Parker's vocals at the six-minute mark and the song fully declares its identity.

Low may indeed dwell in "the absence of noise" -- as In the Fishtank reiterates -- but as the Kings of Convenience have said, "quiet is the new loud".

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Film

Masaki Kobayashi's 'Kwaidan' Horror Films Are Horrifically Beautiful

The four haunting tales of Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan are human and relatable, as well as impressive at a formal and a technical level.

Film

The Top 10 Thought-Provoking Science Fiction Films

Serious science fiction often takes a backseat to the more pulpy, crowdpleasing genre entries. Here are 10 titles far better than any "dogfight in space" adventure.

Books

'The Kill Chain': Why America Might Lose Its Next Big War

Christian Brose's defense-nerd position paper, The Kill Chain, inadvertently reveals that the Pentagon's problems (complacency, inertia, arrogance) reflect those of the country at large.

Music

2006's 'Flat-Pack Philosophy' Saw Buzzcocks Determined to Build Something of Quality

With a four-decade career under their belt, on the sixth disc in the new box-set Sell You Everything, it's heartening to see Buzzcocks refusing to settle for an album that didn't try something new.

Books

'Lie With Me': Beauty, Love and Toxic Masculinity in the Gay '80s

How do we write about repression and toxic masculinity without valorizing it? Philippe Besson's Lie With Me is equal parts poignant tribute and glaring warning.

Music

Apparat's 'Soundtrack: Capri-Revolution' Stands Alone As a Great Ambient Experience

Apparat's (aka Sascha Ring) re-imagined score from Mario Martone's 2018 Capri-Revolution works as a fine accompaniment to a meditational flight of fancy.

Music

Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers Merge Haitian Folk and Electronic Music on 'Vodou Alé'

Haitian roots music meets innovative electronics on Chouk Bwa and the Ångströmers' Vodou Alé.

My Favorite Thing

Weird and Sweet, Riotous and Hushed: The Beatles' 'The White Album'

The Beatles' 'The White Album' is a piece of art that demonstrates how much you can stretch, how far you can bend, how big you really are. The album is deeply weird. It has mass. It has its own weather.

Music

Sarah Jarosz Finds Inspiration in Her Texas Roots on 'World on the Ground'

By turning to her roots in central Texas for inspiration on World on the Ground, Sarah Jarosz has crafted some of her strongest songs yet.

Music

Hinds' 'The Prettiest Curse' Is One of Victory

On The Prettiest Curse, Hinds create messy pop music that captures the vibrancy of youth without being childish.

Music

12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.

Music

Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.