By - Apr 1st, 2007 02:52 pm
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Two years ago, The Great Destroyer marked a period of incredible transition for Low. Not only did the album itself bristle with challenges to the band’s established method of slow and steady and hauntingly beautiful, but the period shortly after its release also saw bassist Zak Sally leave the band and founding member Alan Sparhawk check into the hospital for mental health treatment.

Clearly, there were shakeups, and Drums and Guns refracts the altered configuration of thoughts and people. Producer Dave Fridmann returns to work the subtle transformations that informed his efforts on The Great Destroyer (and with bands like The Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev) ; new bassist and vocalist Matt Livingston fills no one’s shoes but his own and the album feels constantly unsettled.

Even now, with listeners braced for new directions, Low’s music surprises. The opening track, “Pretty People,” crackles in with static and feedback as it raises a golem of Eastern-flavored psychedelic meditation. “Always Fade” sets an electronic whirl in the background of a jazz-funk bass line and a thunderous cardboard-like snare snap. And “Take Your Time” drops chiming bells over a deliberately skipping loop of church-like vocal cadences and a tinny drum-machine rhythm.

Even in relatively familiar territory – the vocal harmonizing between Sparhawk and wife/drummer Mimi Parker is as tenderly hushed as ever on “Belarus” – Low orient themselves to see and hear things differently. Drums and Guns mesmerizes listeners to do the same. VS

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