Low – Ones and Sixes. Album review.

Low returned this week with their 11th studio album titled “Ones and Sixes”. Produced and mixed by BJ Burton, it was recorded in Justin Vernon’s studio in Wisconsin. It is an album that should deservedly gain as many positive reviews as possible (and it has so far). As the cliché goes, it’s one of their best records to date.

I picked this up on vinyl the other day and the first thing that stands out is the artwork. Modest enough on the front cover, but quite excellent inside.

IMG_1712[1]

IMG_1708[1] IMG_1709[1]

Inside Cover

Owls, and it turns out the photos were taken by Alan Sparhawk, main axe wielder and vocalist with the band.

The album starts off with “Gentle”. Electronic glitches set the tone for the album as a whole and it’s a departure from “The Invisible Way”, their previous album, which was produced by Jeff Tweedy.

It has a similar vibe to “Drums and Guns”, one of my favourite Low albums. This album leant heavily on electronic effects as well and almost reminded me of Portishead in places.

It also features “Murderer” which is one of my favourite Low songs.

There are some really lush clean guitar tones on this album. It’s always been the case with Alan Sparhawk though.

Here is an informative video of him talking about his guitar setup.

“No Comprende” has been floating around online for the last month or so, and it continues in a similar vein to the opening track with electro beats mixed with regular drums.

I do like how Low can often play with the same riff or beat over and over and build a song around it.

To my ears, “No Comprende” is the first sonic peak in the album, but that’s not to say the troughs are bad. I’m talking more sonically than anything else.

“Congregation” could be straight off “Drums and Guns” with its military style programmed beat and chugging guitar. Mimi Parker takes over on vocals for this one.

A subtle hint of guitar feedback halfway through rounds off this track.

Things start to build up again on “No End” with a more classic Low sound.

“What part of me” is another track that has been floating around online in the last few weeks. “What part of me don’t you know, what part of me don’t you own”, sung in harmony by Alan and Mimi.

Some great guitar tones on this one as well. My guess is there were a lot of single coil electric guitars lying around the studio.

It’s noticeable how Mimi uses her vocals as an instrument or sonic layer in songs as much as she does actually singing the words of songs.

Album standouts for me are “Lies” and “Landslide”. Not to say that any of the others are worse. I think I’m just a sucker for the guitar sound and electro layers in the background.

“Landslide” is the longest and most aggressive sounding track on the album and rises slowly before eventually crashing into the final track, “DJ”.

It’s almost like surfing. You get stuck into riding a set of waves and come out the other side of the session content and pensive.

It’s great how this band can create so much in a track with so little instrumentation.

I would recommend listening to this album on headphones, or else in a quiet space, but take the time to actually listen to what is going on. You won’t be disappointed.

My ears have latched on to this one more than “The Invisible Way”, but again it’s down to the overall sound. There are some solid tracks on “The Invisible Way” too.

I saw them on tour in Ireland a few years back, and it was as I expected: brilliant. The crowd were quiet and appreciative throughout.

I caught a bit of their set at the Electric Picnic a few weeks back as well. I don’t know who scheduled them to play at 11pm on a Saturday night with dance music bleeding in from other stages. I doubt they were too happy!

So, I hope to get to see them and hear new tunes on their upcoming European tour, either in the UK or in Ireland.

Who knows, they might well end up on Jools Holland this autumn. Never a band to not take risks, they might try and get Jools to add his piano noodling to “Do you know how to waltz?”

Ones and Sixes is out now on subpop records.

Ones and Sixes Tracklist:
01. Gentle
02. No Comprende
03. Spanish Translation
04. Congregation
05. No End
06. Into You
07. What Part of Me
08. The Innocents
09. Kid in the Corner
10. Lies
11. Landslide
12. DJ

Low are also touring with some tasty support acts as well. Let’s hope for an Irish date, but in the meantime, find out more about where you can get the new album, and where they are playing on their website: www.chairkickers.com

Low 2015 Tour Dates:
06/30 – Guang Zhou, CN @ TU Space
07/01 – Shenzen, CN @ B10 Live House
07/03 – Beijing, CN @ YuGong Yishan
07/04 – Shanghai, CN @ Qian Shui Wan Cultural Centre
07/17-18 – Eau Claire, WI @ Eaux Claires Festival
09/03 – Bergen, NO @ Perfect Sounds Forever Fest
09/04-06 – Wiltshire, UK @ End of the Road Festival
09/04-06 – Stradbally, IE @ Electric Picnic
09/18 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
09/19 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
09/21 – Toronto, ON @ The Mod Club
09/22 – Montreal, QC @ Bar Le Ritz PDB
09/23 – Boston, MA @ Brighton Music Hall
09/24 – Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
09/25 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
09/26 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat
10/07 – Manchester, UK @ Cathedral
10/08 – Glasgow, UK @ Art School
10/10 – London, UK @ Roundhouse
10/12 – Koln, DE @ Gebaude 9
10/13 – Hamburg, DE @ Knust
10/14 – Copenhagen, DK @ Vega
10/15 – Stockholm, SE @ Kagelbanan
10/17 – Berlin, DE @ Lido
10/19 – Munich, DE @ Ampere
10/20 – Bologna, IT @ Teatro Antoniano
10/22 – Zaragoza, ES @ Las Armas
10/23 – Barcelona, ES @ Bikini
10/24 – Valencia, ES @ Deleste Festival
10/26 – Madrid, ES @ Teatro Lara
10/27 – Santander, ES @ Escenario
10/29 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso
10/31 – Brussels, BE @ AB
11/11 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
11/13 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
11/14 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
11/16 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Troubadour
11/18 – San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
11/20 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
11/21 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile

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