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.
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