Music Reviews


Double Negative

Sub Pop

There is a common trope about Low, which isn’t far from the truth — that Low is a great band, but their fans are a bunch of sit-on-the-floor-and-shush-everyone toads. I can see both sides of this, having once been shushed by a Low fan, and also because in a live setting it’s really hard to hear Low’s delicate sounds, which are so understated they make the Cowboy Junkies seem more like the Cowboy Tweakers and can be easily drowned out by an errant phone still on vibrate.

This will likely all change with Double Negative. If you have ever hooked up a CD player to a Phono input on an old-fashioned stereo and played your Brian Eno discs at full blast, you will have a general idea of what some of this sounds like. For the rest of you, Double Negative is coated with a layer of intergalactic grime, accumulated over the passage of millions of light years on its way to some civilization that does not exist yet, never mind have the capacity to decode the transmission. It’s noisy, rhythmic, full of clipping and distortion, roving waves of compression and rogue waves of filtering, droning beats and oversampled vinyl scratches. And yet interspersed with this monstrous vigor are such moments of beautiful clarity as to make the whole thing seem like an incomprehensible tower of light and fur.

No, I’m not high. It’s just rare to hear something as transcendent as Double Negative, flitting between the extremes of Sunn-O))) and This Mortal Coil to make a completely musical statement, and doubly-baffling to have this come from Low after a couple of decades of entrancing tinkle, tap, and jangle.

You will find me at the next Low show. I don’t think anyone will need to tell anyone to shut up.

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