PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Music

Low: Trust

Carolyn Kellogg

Low

Trust

Label: Kranky
US Release Date: 2002-09-24
UK Release Date: 2002-09-23
Amazon
iTunes

With their first record in 1994, Low opened a door to an undiscovered musical universe, one they continue to inhabit largely alone. There really isn't another band that is slow, quiet, melancholy and intense in quite the same way. And now, with Trust, Low has created yet another record of sublime beauty.

If you're familiar with independent music, you probably know the facts of the band, a trio from Duluth, Minnesota. Alan Sparhawk plays guitar and sings; his wife, Mimi Parker, sings and plays percussion. Zak Sally plays bass. Low's most high-profile moment to date may have been around Christmas 2000, when the Gap used their recording of "Little Drummer Boy" in a TV ad. Other than that flash of mainstream exposure, they seem content to remain in the independent music world.

This is certainly a more nurturing place for them than a ClearChannel listening room, with music directors accustomed to Incubus desperately trying to find a call-out hook. Low's music is characterized most importantly by its subtlety. The band's songs are rich with gaps, low hums, long notes and longer pauses (see the review of their previous record, Things We Lost in the Fire) that, like someone whispering, draw the listener in close.

Inside that close circle there are often the unmistakable harmonies of Parker and Sparhawk singing together. Imagine Exene and John Doe down a long Sergio Leone lens, singing along a railroad track masked by layers of blowing dust. Or Emmylou Harris and Neil Young exhausted, half-asleep, trying not to disturb a baby sleeping in the next room. Separately their voices can be beautiful; together they are just awkward enough to be transcendent.

Truth has the solemn and quiet moments -- low-slope openings to "(That's How You Say) Amazing Grace" and "I Am the Lamb," the barest arc of "It's in the Drugs", the lullaby of "Tonight" -- that should be enough to satisfy any long-term fan.

Yet it also, within the bounds reasonable for Low, rocks out like crazy. With Sparhawk's reedy vocals and scorching guitars, "Diamond" could almost be a new Neil Young song. The thudding drums that come up in "I Am the Lamb" are positively intimidating. Feedbacky fuzz lifts and billows in "Snowstorm" while guitars are as cold and accusing as a church bell echoing across an empty winter square in "John Prine."

When the CD isn't rocking and isn't quiet, there are a couple of songs that sound suspiciously like pop. "La La La Song" has slightly psychedelic background guitar/sitar sounds, a swingy melody, and syncopated handclaps. Criminy, it even has Gerry Beckley of America ("You Can Do Magic") jumping in on vocals. The rousing "Canada", so head-noddingly hummable, will resurface in your brain days later, no matter that you didn't know you knew it.

It's not quite fair to summarize songs like these; within each one are scads of tiny, vibrant details. A tuba bubbles ebulliently for a few bars. Feedback tears through fragile sonic fabric violently, just once. The scratch of metal against metal. A harmonica tone barely longer than a second flickers back unexpectedly. Someone leans on piano keys. Birds chatter. A bag of sand spills.

Perhaps like Tom Waits or the Cramps, artists so individual that they live in genres of their own, Low's moves are subject to a special kind of scrutiny. Are they moving too far from the unique place they started? Are they bowing to the pressures of popularity and getting trendy? Or, instead, are they simply rehashing past successes?

Low is doing none of these things. From the high plains of Duluth, Low continue to create music true to the universe they invented without standing still. On Truth, low-key turns up, and minimalism expands to include wailing guitars. This is another great Low record: weighty and airy, compelling and quiet, eminently beautiful.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


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.