Low – Double Negative

Yet another album which protests Donald Trump’s America, but in an incredibly different way. Low have returned with their 12th studio album across a 25-year career and let me assure you now, Double Negative is no typical listen. Instead, it is a record which cleverly captures the band’s journey against modern society and does so by surrounding themselves in a constant whirring of fresh harrowing sound.

As soon as we enter the record’s opening numbers, ‘Quorum’ and ‘Dancing And Blood’, the intensity is already enough to make the hairs on your arms stand. The soft slow core sound is tainted with intense warping and muddy effects which all combine to create an uncomfortable but incredibly intriguing listen. As vocalists Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker share the lyrics between them, the differing vocal tones compliment each other greatly and emphasise the emptiness and intricacies behind the sound, which is where the majority of this record finds its power.

If the tone of the album had to be compared to anything remotely similar, there is certainly a degree of David Bowie’s Blackstar mixed with elements of Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree. However, it feels as though Double Negative instead tries to create an entire universe of its own. No song shies away from being bold and experimental and instead finds itself flourishing, bringing something completely different to the listen. To clarify, this sobering yet impactful tone is not exactly one which will get you on your feet moving or dancing around the room, but will instead make you question the world around you and what YOU stand for, which is infinitely harder for any artist to achieve.

As the record progresses, at certain times we’re met with a sense of clean minimalism and emptiness. ‘Always Up’ is arguably one of the prettier tracks on the album, using a far more calming tone on both the synths and vocals which creates an incredibly needed contrast to the rest of the record. The sense of minimalism is by no means a bad thing though and, if anything, emphasises that slow and steady really does win the race.

Meanwhile, during ‘Always Trying to Work It Out’ and ‘Rome (Always In The Dark)’ we’re instead given a real feeling of war and destruction where Alan truly unleashes a real vocal power and emotion, the result being truly awe inspiring. Whilst in isolation each track does hold a contrasting sound, they still blend incredibly cohesively and hold a far deeper sense of meaning, which unless you’re willing to seek your own interpretation, you’ll never be able to fully understand. Almost every track on Double Negative seems to work in this way, amongst the intensity and alien-like nature of the sound, it’s important to appreciate why each is there, what it brings and how it affects the overall aura of the music.

Low have created a record which is truly in a league of its own: it’s ambitious, creative and brilliantly depicts the intensity and delicacy that modern synth can create. From start to finish the entire record is a blur, never coming to a real stop at any point, merely shifting its momentum into either an angelic or hellish-like sound. This is the best kind of experimentation, it blurs the lines of serenity, sinister and euphoria into an overall package which hits with the force of a bag of bricks.

It is albums like this which make you question not what the artist is thinking, but what you are thinking. This isn’t the kind of album you take to the gym or whack on your party playlists, instead its atmospheric tones will flood your brain into a sense of disturbing serenity, it’s an experience, not just a listen.

Ben Walker

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