SingleOfTheWeek

Rock's shades of grey in Dancing & Blood

Low are an American indie-rock group from Duluth, Minnesota, comprising (from left) Steve Garrington, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk.
Low are an American indie-rock group from Duluth, Minnesota, comprising (from left) Steve Garrington, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk.PHOTO: SUB POP
Low are an American indie-rock group from Duluth, Minnesota, comprising (from left) Steve Garrington, Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk.

INDIE ROCK/SLOWCORE

DANCING & BLOOD

Low

Sub Pop

4 stars

It's 50 shades of grey in the latest cinemascope of Low, indie-rock pioneers from Duluth, Minnesota. The feel, though, is more downtempo than titillating vanilla erotica.

Just take a look at the video for the single Dancing And Blood, taken off Double Negative, their 12th studio album, to be released next month as the band celebrate their 25th anniversary.

Directed by Karlos Rene Ayala, the video zooms in on an old man, a Patrick Stewart lookalike - dancing with a couple of smiling lasses, but mostly pole-dancing alone in a discotheque.

He, however, does not smile, but has a determined mien to enjoy himself. It's his heaven, if only for a few minutes.

The black-and-white images look familiar, generic at first. They become incrementally disconcerting as your mind runs wild, like a Lynchian film.

This is compounded by the eerie thud and throb of the music.

The song opens with a low but insistent industrial rumble, looping and nothing else for half a minute or so, before vocalist Mimi Parker comes in, mouthing words that sound ill-distinct.

A check online reveals damning indictment.

"What could I say?/Taken aback/ All that you gave/Wasn't enough," she intones. The words, clear as glass, undercut the decidedly upbeat vibe of the dance. Synth flickers like flames. Everything is at risk. Everything is worth risking for.

"Chasing the line/Tear in the cut/It's inside/Deep in the note/ Throw in the earth/Dancing and blood," she continues a string of gnomic declamations.

Her voice, spectral and pitched slightly higher, ricochets around the cavern as her husband Alan Sparhawk's guitar riffs ring. Steve Garrington's bass guitar flecks like conscience.

That's the existential impulse of Low's slowcore music. The band take the lineaments of rock and strip them bare. What is left? What are we confronting? Our emotions? The hard truths?

One is besieged, confronted and eventually liberated.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2018, with the headline 'Rock's shades of grey in Dancing & Blood'. Print Edition | Subscribe