With 'Room to Breathe', Low Hum Flesh Out Their Engaging Lo-Fi Psych Pop Sound

Photo: Brandon Hardy / Clarion Call Media

Low Hum make dreamy, psychedelic pop magic with their first full-length album, Room to Breathe.

Room to Breathe
Low Hum

Last Gang

7 June 2019

With a home studio, fluency on a number of instruments, and an eclectic taste in music, Collin Desha must be living the dream. Born and raised in Hawaii, the self-proclaimed "surf punk kid" was hooked on both the ocean and music and by age 17, he relocated to Los Angeles, eager to explore and absorb the explosive music scene. Eventually setting up his home studio and pairing with French producer/drummer Jules de Gasperis, Desha adopted the moniker Low Hum and released a self-titled EP last year.

Now, with the release of a full-length follow-up, Room to Breathe, Desha is continuing to explore music with, in his words, "no boundaries". While De Gasperis still plays most of the drums and a few other musicians chip in here and there, it's Desha who wrote the songs as well as handling the lion's share of the performing. With a project like this – a complete studio creature with multiple overdubs – it can be hard for the finished tracks to sound like a coherent band. Fortunately, Room to Breathe hums along – pardon the pun - with solid musicianship and refreshingly consistent songwriting.

There's a lo-fi aesthetic that runs through Room to Breathe, but never at the expense of the song. Rather, the home studio feel of the album gives the compositions a charming angle, and the sometimes brittle psychedelia adds an optimistic, user-friendly, "everyone is welcome" vibe. The most obvious comparison to be made is Tame Impala. While I'm confident that Desha has his own vision and is not overtly copying other artists, I'd be surprised if Currents wasn't on heavy rotation during these sessions.

Like Kevin Parker's band, the mix of neo-funk beats, dreamy vocals and colorful, retro-synth accents on Room to Breathe help give the album an eclectic appeal. Opening track "Fake Reality" struts along with an old-school funk cadence, but eventually it crashes into "Strange Love", with an insistent motorik beat giving the song a classic krautrock feel. By the time the splashes of keyboards wash over the seductive groove of the title track, it's obvious that Low Hum's ambition is matched only by what's probably an extensive record collection.

The warm, lo-fi indie funk of the album often takes sentimental turns. "Nebraska" is a heartfelt – yet sometimes musically brash – tribute to Desha's deceased grandfather. "Crimson Cardinal" pays tribute to a close friend who committed suicide a few years ago. The song – whose title refers to his friend's tattoo – is punctuated by hyper-distorted, Neil Young-style guitar leads, which seem initially to fly in the face of the track's gentle grooves, but in reality, adds more sonic layers to an already revelatory song. Lesser composers and producers would find the combination incongruous, but Desha realizes the emotional punch that all these factors pack, and the result is bracing.

Adding to the mix the Britpop shadings of "Sun Chaser" and the spacey musical swirls that run through "Comatose", it's clear that Collin Desha is intent on checking off as many stylistic boxes as possible on Room to Breathe. It's easy to profess a love for multiple styles of music and even to declare an intent to imbue your art with as much of it as possible. The hard part is pulling it off. Mission accomplished.





Laura Nyro's "Save the Country" Calls Out from the Past

Laura Nyro, a witchy, queer, ethnic Russian Jew, died young, but her non-conformist anthem, "Save the Country", carries forth to these troubled times.


Journalist Jonathan Cott's Interviews, Captured

With his wide-ranging interviews, Jonathan Cott explores "the indispensable and transformative powers of the imagination."

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Coronavirus and the Culture Wars

Infodemics, conspiracies -- fault lines beneath the Fractured States of America tremble in this time of global pandemic, amplify splinters, fractures, and fissures past and present.


'Switched-On Seeker' Is an Imaginative Electronic Reimagining of Mikal Cronin's Latest LP

Listeners who prefer dense rock/pop timbres will no doubt prefer Mikal Cronin's 'Seeker'. However, 'Switched-On Seeker' will surely delight fans of smaller-scale electronic filters.


IYEARA Heighten the Tension on Remix of Mark Lanegan's "Playing Nero" (premiere)

Britsh trio IYEARA offer the first taste of a forthcoming reworking of Mark Lanegan's Somebody's Knocking with a remix of "Playing Nero".


Pottery Take Us Deep Into the Funky and Absurd on 'Welcome to Bobby's Motel'

With Welcome to Bobby's Motel, Pottery have crafted songs to cleanse your musical pallet and keep you firmly on the tips of your toes.


Counterbalance 23: Bob Dylan - 'Blood on the Tracks'

Bob Dylan makes his third appearance on the Acclaimed Music list with his 1975 album, Blood on the Tracks. Counterbalance’s Eric Klinger and Jason Mendelsohn are planting their stories in the press.


Luke Cissell Creates Dreamy, Electronic Soundscapes on the Eclectic 'Nightside'

Nightside, the new album from composer and multi-instrumentalist Luke Cissell, is largely synthetic and electronic but contains a great deal of warmth and melody.


Bibio Discusses 'Sleep on the Wing' and Why His Dreams Are of the Countryside

"I think even if I lived in the heart of Tokyo, I'd still make music that reminds people of the countryside because it's where my dreams often take me," says Bibio (aka Stephen Wilkinson) of his music and his new rustic EP.

Reading Pandemics

Pandemic, Hope, Defiance, and Protest in 'Romeo and Juliet'

Shakespeare's well known romantic tale Romeo and Juliet, written during a pandemic, has a surprisingly hopeful message about defiance and protest.


A Family Visit Turns to Guerrilla Warfare in 'The Truth'

Catherine Deneuve plays an imperious but fading actress who can't stop being cruel to the people around her in Hirokazu Koreeda's secrets- and betrayal-packed melodrama, The Truth.


The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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