Album Review: Low - The Invisible Way

11 March 2013 | 11:27 am | Ross Clelland

The final, To Our Knees, is back to the ‘Low’-key, and makes for an apt end.

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Low are an elegant contradiction. Over 20 years, they've made music of such quiet grace, interrupted by ructions of bitter recrimination. The core – and central identifying sounds of the band – the harmonies (and disharmonies) of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, are sometimes part of the maelstrom. Sparhawk has unilaterally announced the end of the band more than once, before backtracking and confessing battles with depression and fame.

The Invisible Way is possibly Low's most focussed and diverse record. Perhaps the catalyst to these new ways, having Wilco's Jeff Tweedy as producer. The spaces and silences are still there, but there's some different textures. Rippling or delicate piano underpins many of the songs. Sparhawk's dark humour is in evidence – like the archaeology that uncovers the Plastic Cup “…they make you piss into…”, or Mother's Freudian moments. But it's Parker who gets a bigger role. Beyond her usual place of backing or unison voice, here she takes lead on a couple of real highlights: the plaintive Holy Ghost set for an inevitable Emmylou Harris cover, while the gospel flecked Just Make It Stop, absolutely raw in its hurt and need. Her double-tracked vocals, with the piano and skittering drums that take it out, make it both crafted in its construction, and human.

Conversely, On My Own is almost jaunty in its acceptance, before getting stretched and reshaped by a guitar spiral and noise, and unlikely “Happy Birthday” twist. The final, To Our Knees, is back to the 'Low'-key, and makes for an apt end. And then you go back and play it all again, and find even more in it.