sat 25/05/2024

Album: Low - Hey What | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Low - Hey What

Album: Low - Hey What

The Minnesota duo at their most transcendent

Low's 'Hey What': astonishingly powerful

Although Hey What is 47 minutes long and includes 10 tracks, it comes across as shorter due to its homogeneity. That’s not to say it all sounds the same, but that it has the overarching feel of a suite where the individual songs equate to movements within a long-form piece.

It means that Low’s 13th full-length studio outing is an album as such, rather than a grab-bag collection of disparate compositions.

Hey What is also astonishingly powerful. Metallic bursts of noise open the album. As they pass, “White Horses” emerges from the maelstrom. The pulse running throughout the first track suggests industrial rock but the hymnal melody and forceful vocals transmute it into a form of mantra. As the song builds, the instrumentation reaches towards a rapture. The third track “All Night” is less spiky but, again, there’s this increasing sense of striving to leave the earthbound. Reinforcing the idea that escape is being sought, the lyrics refer to a fight with an adversary.

At its most straightforward, on “Don't Walk Away” and the almost country gospel of “Days Like These”, the 2021 model Low brings an Americana undercurrent close to the surface. However, the latter’s new-agey synths challenges notions that Low might be riding a hay wagon. Contrastingly, slam-bang, hard-soft penultimate cut “More” is extraordinarily intense. Sigur Rós tried this approach on 2013’s Kveikur, but it didn’t gell.

Low are the Minnesota duo Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk. Live, there’ll be a bass player but it’s their show. Their first album came out 27 years ago. Hey What, like their last two albums, was recorded with Bon Iver producer BJ Burton. Despite the continuity, Hey What takes Low further out than ever. Nonetheless, it’s about songs and memorable melodies. Way more so than its Burton-produced 2018 predecessor Double Negative.

They’ll be playing live next year. If the focus and power defining Hey What can be summoned on stage, the shows should be monumental.


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