Formed back in 1993, the acclaimed Duluth-based indie act Low — currently founding members and married couple Alan Sparhawk (guitar, vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums) with Steve Garrington (bass) — are considered pioneers of slowcore, an indie rock sub-genre featuring slowed down tempos and minimalist-leaning arrangements. They’ve managed to consistently disapprove of the slowcore term while going through a series of lineup changes. And over time, they’ve shrugged off its strictures altogether.
2018’s critically applauded, B.J. Burton-produced Double Negative may arguably be one of the most uncompromising and challenging albums of their expansive catalog. The trio worked with Burton on 2015’s Ones and Sixes and as the story goes, they wanted to go further with Burton and his aesthetic, to see what someone who as Sparhawk has described as “a hip-hop guy” could do to push their music in radically new directions. Instead of obsessively writing, revising and rehearsing in Duluth before heading to the studio, the band went to Eau Claire, WI with rough ideas and sketches for one of the most collaborative writing sessions they’ve ever had with a producer.
During those sessions, they’d build pieces up, break them down and build up them up again until each individual song found its purpose and force. Over the two year writing and recording sessions, the outside world slid deeper into madness and instability — and in some fashion Double Negative may be seen as a document of our peculiar moment: the material is at times loud, contentious, chaotic and jarring. Sparhawk’s and Parker’s gorgeous harmonies sometimes seem to be desperately fighting against the noise and chaos, other times hidden with it.
HEY WHAT, the acclaimed Duluth-based act’s 13th album is slated for a September 10, 2021 release through their longtime label home Sub Pop Records. Continuing their ongoing collaboration with producer BJ Burton, HEY WHAT reportedly finds the trio focusing on their craft, staying out of the fray and holding fast to their faith to find new ways to express the discord and delight of being a living human being, to turn the duality of our existence into hymns we can share. The album’s ten songs are individually built by their own undeniable hooks — and are turbocharged by the vivid textures surrounding them.
Last month, I wrote about “Days Like These,” a disorientating track featuring hushed passages with strummed guitar fighting for space between dense layers of noise and distortion that accrete and then fall apart. The entire affair is held together by Sparkhawk and Parker’s gorgeous and slightly Autotuned harmonies, serving as a lifeline from the shore, thrown out to the poor soul just about to drown in the breakers. At its core, “Days Like These” is a yearning plea for meaning and peace in a world that’s completely mad and doesn’t make much sense.
“Disappearing,” HEY WHAT‘s second and latest single is a meditative slow-burn centered around ebbing and waning feedback and distortion. Sparhawk’s and Parker’s yearning harmonies ride the uneasy crests and valleys of the song’s oceanic-like production. The song is an an aching meditation of loneliness, isolation and the unknown beyond all of this.
Directed, produced and edited by multi-disciplinary artist Dorian Wood, the recently released video for “Disappearing” follows Wood as he poses for a virtual art class starting actors/artists Jeff Cain, Michael Corwin, Lisa Dee, Ari DeSano, Andrew Duncan, Sinan G., Matthew Richter, Eddie Rivas, Matthew Rothery, Jason Savvy, Geneva Skeen, and Myke Dodge Weiskopf. During the class, we see Wood lost in his thoughts while posing in ways that showcase his big, beautiful body — including at one point in a billowing, white dress. But at the end of the session, when Wood turns off the computer and tears his setup down, you get a sense of the connection with others quickly disappearing before his eyes.
“I am incredibly thrilled to have created this video for Low,” Wood explains in press notes. “I’ve been such a fan for years. I was inspired to offer a personal glimpse of what I’d been up to during the pandemic year. I’ve been doing art modeling on the side for years, mostly for art schools. Once the schools physically shut down due to Covid, I was invited to pose for dozens of virtual classes. I borrowed a friend’s empty guest room and twice a week I would set up my laptop and lights and pose for three hours at a time. During these long stretches of time, I’d lose myself in thought while delivering poses that best showcased all this fat brown beauty. In my mind, I traveled to places and memories, and in the case of ‘Disappearing,’ I not only visited the ocean in my mind, I became it. Even at its most empowering and meditative, a modeling session was often a reminder of how lonely one can feel when the other humans in the room immediately vanish once the laptop shuts down. And still, a semblance of hope always lingered. We shot the video at Human Resources, a performance space in L.A. which also served as a creative sanctuary for me during the pandemic year. There’s a lot of ‘coming home’ love in this video. I’m honored to be able to share this love.”
fThe band will be embarking on a 30 date world tour with North American shows throughout late March and April 2022. The North America leg of the tour includes a March 31, 2022 stop at Webster Hall. The UK and European Union leg of tour goes from late April to mid-May.
Along with the release of the video, the acclaimed Duluth-based act announced two album release shows at Square Lake, just outside the Twin Cities on September 10, 2021 and September 11, 2021. Those shows will feature a diverse group of artists handpicked by the band including Joe Rainey, Sr., Gaelynn Leam and Lord Friday the 13th. Check out the rest of the tour dates below.
North America 2021:
Sep. 10 – Square Lake, MN
Sep. 11 – Square Lake, MN
North America 2022:
Mar. 22 – Bloomington, IN – Bishop
Mar. 25 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
Mar. 26 – Atlanta, GA – Terminal West
Mar. 28 – Washington, DC – Miracle Theatre
Mar. 29 – Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live
Mar. 31 – New York, NY – Webster Hall
Apr. 01 – Providence, RI – Columbus Theater
Apr. 02 – Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount
Apr. 04 – Toronto, ON – The Axis Club
Apr. 05 – Detroit, MI – Loving Touch
Apr. 08 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon
UK & Europe 2022:
Apr. 25 – Edinburgh, UK – Queen’s Hall
Apr. 26 – Dublin, IE – Vicar Street
Apr. 27 – Manchester, UK – Manchester Cathedral
Apr. 28 – Brighton, UK – St. George’s Church Brighton
Apr. 29 – London, UK – St. John at Hackney Church –
Apr. 30 – Bristol, UK – Trinity
May 02 – Paris, FR – Alhambra
May 03 – Cologne, DE – Kulturkirche Köln
May 04 – Antwerp, BE – TRIX
May 05 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
May 06 – Aarhus, DK – Voxhall
May 07 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega
May 09 – Hamburg, DE – Uebel & Gefährlich
May 10 – Berlin, DE – Festsaal Kreuzberg
May 11 – Vienna, AT – Wuk
May 12 – Bologna, IT – Teatro Duse
May 13 – Lausanne, CH- Les Docks
May 14 – Zurich, CH – Mascotte