Low – When I Go Deaf (2005)
One of the most pleasurable, transcendant musical experiences I’ve ever had. seeing Low in concert back in a pre-recession fairy-tale Dublin of 2007 – O! Them’s were the days!??? – Since 1993, the Duluth, Minnesota band has retained their core members, Guitarist/vocalist Alan Spearhawk over the course of ten albums – their newest long player The Invisible Way released today on Sub Pop records – forging a distinct musical path whilst cultivating a devoted cult following and occasionally denting the mainstream although never compromising their sublimely bruised and delicate sound on which their reputation rests.
The power of their music centres on the dynamics of Parker and Spearhawk’s oft harmonized vocals as well as an essential quiet/loud dynamic on songs such as ‘When I Go Deaf’ from their 2005 album The Great Destroyer; a tenderly strummed acoustic folk ballad transforms into a monolith of guitar noise worthy of Crazy Horse, amping up the already emotionally febrile nature of the song to an epic level of cathartic release.
American Music Club – If I had a Hammer (1993)
Red House Painters – Mistress (1993)
Smog – I Feel Like the Mother of the World (2005)
Bonnie Prince Billy – I See a Darkness (1999)
Low- When I go Deaf (2005)
Yeah, the blog has ignored cinema for a while. Ive been watching, keeping up but new ideas are still percolating.
Meanwhile, something of a reverie to my 20’s; record shop years and when the idea of DIY ,music before the internet was beginning to spread amongst Dublin based acts such as The Frames, Jubilee, Damien Rice etc influenced it seems by acts such as Bill Calahan, Will Oldham, Low, Papa M and many cult American lo-f/slowcore acts frequently touring these shores on a frequent basis in the late 90’s and early 00’s.
A form of modern American folk emerging from the underground explosion of the early 90’s and as much influenced by British indie guitar pop, psychedelia, shoegaze, traditional spirituals as by recording methods, low budgets, locality and little concern for mainstream courtship.
Spartan and haunted are how I would describe the sounds of most of these bands; raw and unfiltered without any need for vanity; solipsistic and intense, a sound that is uncompromisingly personal and signifying a certain integrity.
I could attempt to analyze in more detail but you should really just listen to the music and check out Drowned in Sound website where they have series of informative articles from 2009 focusing on the so-called Slowcore movement that will give you a wider insight into the bands and acts that emerged on American independent labels from the Early Nineties onwards.
Although the sound of this movement if you will has subtly influenced more mainstream indie rock in the last decade it is maybe the self-sufficient, bloody minded attitudes of these groups that has left its biggest mark on modern music and why most of them still remain active in this home recording digital utopia.
Can – Halleluwah (1971)
The bassline so familiar. Working in Dublin city in the late Nineties, early Oughties, this song seemed to be playing in every second hand record shop clothes emporium I frequented or maybe with time’s rosy gaze it just seems that way. At that time, Can were simply a band who were namedropped by bands I read about in music publications and I the seemed completely unknown to me and that their music would be too too fucking obscure to track down somehow.
Of course, I thought I knew so much about music back then. I knew very little, fuck all, a tiny corner of an infinitesmal universe of sound. Today Im still in that tiny corner and probably always will be. Then, I was pre-Can. Now I’m post-Can. That is the only difference.
I have a friend to thank for turning me on to Can and German electronic and rock music from the 60’s and 70’s in general about six or seven years ago by thrusting several cds worth of these amazing, headspinning sounds into my hands including Can’s entire album catalogue.
To convey in an articulate, coherent or even dull manner what Can is, was or will be sparks off fragments of thought. Of course but these fragments like this bands music may never unify but will instead take off, journey through the spheres like starships collecting evidence of other alien civilizations and their ways of seeing, creating and expressing.
When I listen to Can and songs such as Halleluwah, I’m hearing something old, and new simultaneously every time. From what era and what time is never easy to define. They encompass multitudes of that dreaded phrase ‘genre’ and yet are one unto themselves and their sound is one that could sound of the past, present and future all at once. How was it done? Part of me doesnt ever want to know.
This track from the 71’s Tago Mago album sounds to me like an old seventies funk classic or an extended sample ready bass driven funk groove. The type of groove record coveted by vinyl freaks and hipster music historians playing in the background of those stores i mentioned, soundtracking a hip, aspirant adult coolness that never quite exists.
Can you dance to this? Of course…it puts you in a trance. But is it sexy? Sure but sexy in an all inclusive, expanding the universe kind of way not in the pure narcissistic, fashion conscious sense an omnipresent feature of dance halls echoing with soul and dance grooves the world over and over and over…..