Live Concert Photography: Low at National Sawdust 9/21/18
Currently comprised of founding members, and married couple Alan Sparhawk (guitar, vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums) along with Steve Garrington (bass), the Duluth, MN-based critically applauded indie rock trio Low initially formed back in 1993 — and although they’ve had their share of lineup changes, the trio have developed a reputation for being pioneers of a subgenre commonly called slowcore, which focuses on slowed down tempos and minimalist arrangements, while centered around the gorgeous and achingly earnest harmonies of Sparhawk and Parker. And since their formation, the members of the band have disapproved of the term, eventually shrugging off its strictures and recorded a beloved Christmas album while developing a long-held reputation for a magnetic and powerful stage show. But interestingly enough, as the band celebrates its 25th anniversary together, the band has released one of the most uncompromisingly defiant and brazenly abrasive, challenging yet gorgeous albums of their careers, the B.J. Burton-produced Double Negative, which was released last month through Sub Pop Records.
As the story goes, the trio of Sparhawk, Parker and Garrington had worked with Burton on their previous album Ones and Sixes and they wanted to go further with Burton and his aesthetic and sonic palette, to see what someone, who as Sparhawk has described as “a hip-hop guy” could really do to their music. Instead of obsessively writing, revising and rehearsing in Duluth before heading to the studio, the members of the band went down to Eau Claire, WI with rough ideas and sketches that they would work with Burton on in what may arguably be among the most collaborative writing sessions with a producer they’ve ever had — and during those sessions they’d build piece sup, break them down and build them up again until their purpose and force. Over the past two years, as the outside world slid deeper into madness and instability, the album they wound up writing may be considered (by future generations) as document of our times: at times loud, contentious, chaotic, jarring — with Sparhawk’s and Parker’s vocals sometimes desperately fighting against the noise, other times hidden it. And while being a radical and decided sonic departure for the most part, the material manages to be Low — gorgeous, and achingly heartfelt.
The members of the Duluth-based trio began a lengthy bit of touring to support their latest effort with a three night stay at National Sawdust, and it featured somewhat stripped down versions of the new album’s material, along with some classic deeper cuts. Check out photos from the show