The Harvard Crimson has posted a review of a recent Low concert. It follows the typical story line of Low’s music reflecting the band’s native Dultuh and the Mormonism of two of its three members — the husband-wife team Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. What’s interesting about the review, though, is that the way it describes the Mormon-ness of the band:
“Alan and Mimi, as practicing Mormons, lead a quiet lifestyle worlds removed from most of their groupies-n-gin peers. Shining through in their lyrics and in their relationship, this faith that sets them apart also brings their sound to a new level. Although less minimalist than their first release (every song title on I Could Live In Hope is one word), The Great Destroyer is just as bare and beautiful as the rest of their albums. The music, although not conducive even to foot-tapping, rewards patience and silence with a beautifully austere, wintry texture reminiscent of Duluth, even in a scene saturated with New York swagger and California ennui. The perfect complement to a cold, listless winter day, Low’s music becomes more beautiful as it becomes more familiar, their maudlin, Mormon message piercing to the bone of even the most jaded big city hipster.”
I’m not sure how “practicing” Alan and Mimi are — and on an aesthetic level, I don’t really care — but I find it interesting that the style of music that Low plays (often labeled “slowcore”) is seen as connected to their Mormonism. As part of a Mormon aesthetic. I’ve listened to some of Low’s music, but not enough to know if that’s really the case. The band members themselves tend to say that they started playing slow and spare as a reaction against the loud grunge sound (and also to just piss people off — which they apparently did at some of their early concerts).
This question of “Mormon-ness” is a difficult one. One made even more difficult when it comes to music and visual art that doesn’t explicitly feature Mormon cultural materials. I’m tempted to go off on the idea of their sound and reverence, but I don’t know their music well enough, and I think that’s a dead end idea anyway.
[Tangent]I’m not sure what’s up with the use of “maudlin.” I don’t think the adjective fits their music, but, you know, anything for a sweet use of alliteration, right? Music and film reviewers seem to be especially susceptible to its siren call.[/Tangent]
Low’s latest album “The Great Destroyer” was released Jan. 25 by Sub Pop Records. For more on Low, including to listen to samples of their music and purchase albums (plus really cool merchandise), visit Chairkickers Union Music. Low will be touring extensively in support of the new album — the West Coast swing of their tour takes place in March and April and includes stops in Salt Lake City, Seattle, San Francisco, LA and Phoenix.
POSTSCRIPT: On this day, the day that we mourn Arthur Miller’s passing, I think it’s only fitting to point out that one of the singles from Low’s latest album is titled “Death of a Salesman.” You can hear a clip from it at Amazon.com.