Low glow effect by Stefania Ianne
Low glow effect by Stefania Ianne

A freezing rainy night in Boston, a fast ride in the total darkness through silent skyscrapers, all I remember is fuzziness, the city torn in half by spaghetti junction style highways, greyness all around, distorted by the water, the city is flooded, the spray is horrendous, we are deposited in a daze outside the unassuming venue, I almost step on a policeman rushing by behind my back.

In through the double doors we get searched for the first time in our month long stay in the US, understandably, we are just a few days away from the carnage at the Borderline club in California.

I wish I had liked the opening act In/via more, but this solo venture voice and synthesiser felt way too monotonous, relying heavily on keyboard effects and the obsessive singing voice felt a tad too high for her range. It could have been magical, but it felt uneventful.

Low are unassuming professionals, while waiting in the darkness for the show to go on, I spot Alan Sparhawk walking by slight and with purpose. He seems even slimmer than usual in his dark clothes and dark cap. He looks like he has just stepped out of their latest video Always Trying to Work It Out.

Once the opening act packs up her synch, Low the band take over the stage almost immediately, taking care each of their own instruments, a minimalist guitar, bass and drums combination. The strangeness pervading their latest release Double-Negative hits the audience in the face starting from the first synthesized notes. It is a dark, fuzzy night, electricity is in the air. Soon Sparhawk excuses himself while working on his equipment. He claims the knobs are moving by themselves, he has never seen anything like that in his life. Is there a ghost in the house? Are there ghosts raining in on us? He uses gaffer tape to keep the controls in position… This is a weird night and Low’s music fits the mood, it fizzles, the distortion takes over. Compared to Double-Negative the album, the distortion live is toned down and Mimi Parker’s beautiful voice is as crisp and strong as ever, while Alan Sparhawk’s voice feels smoky, musky, with a hint of sea foam, the roughness of the sea. His guitar, mainly responsible for the band’s unique sound, emits a broken scream, it is painful, pungent… and eerie at the same time.

Technology makes Low’s music even more ghostly, at times I hear the sound of arctic winds and breaking glaciers, sometimes it is the scream of an animal dying in atrocious pain or could it simply be the sound of the breaking point reached by civilization as we know it?

Low’s sound is intense, their music is deadly serious. No time for fancy shows, the spotlight is on their sound. Their performance enhances the sense of fuzziness accompanying me tonight. It rings in my ears, it is reflected and expanded in the droplets on the window of the car taking us home. The rain is unrelentingly falling down, violent, definite, digging patterns in my brain. Patterns filled by ethereal music filling the gaps between the drops hitting the roof of the car, hitting the skylight, drowning the rest of the noise.

I find myself thinking that watching Low live tonight was a much more cerebral experience compared to my previous Low experiences, I find myself drawing patterns with my feet on the dark floor, a marked up path in front of me, bodies endlessly moving to and fro, apparently aimlessly, absurdly like life.

Low Brighton Music Hall, Boston 9 November 2018

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