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“modes both subtle and strangulated”

Nel’s Cline of Wilco writes about one of my favorite bands, Low. So I write about that.

Low - C'monThe guitarist Nels Cline — of Wilco and other bands — is a guest on two tracks on the new record from Duluth band Low, “C’mon.” A reporter from Uncut, a U.K.-based music magazine, contacted Cline in the course of doing a profile about Low, and got such a verbose response that the reporter posted the whole thing on the magazine’s website.

As a piece of music criticism, the essay almost stands on its own, though at times it gets a little rambling and “purple.” But it shows Cline has been a longtime fan of Low, and confirms that the best musicians love listening to music as much as they love making it:

Since my becoming aware of Low, I have watched as Alan has started other projects, both of which seemed to address a burning need to “rock out”, to make a racket, be immersed in a mushroom cloud of rhythm and guitar, to really cut loose. I actually have sat in briefly with both The Black-Eyed Snakes and with The Retribution Gospel Choir and witnessed/felt the music, watched Alan go for it, heard his beautiful guitar sound in modes both subtle and strangulated. With records like “The Great Destroyer”, Low had surges of volume on brilliant songs like “Pissing” and “When I Go Deaf”.

I’m glad he mentioned “When I Go Deaf” (off the 2005 album “The Great Destroyer”). There are many great Low songs, but I just listened to this one again two days ago and it got me. Here’s video of Low playing the song just a few days ago at a gig in New Orleans:

I remember first reading about the song in a review of the album “The Great Destroyer” in the now-defunct Rake Magazine six years ago, and the interpretation of the lyrics has stuck with me: “‘When I Go Deaf’ … speaks frankly about a time when it will be OK not to write or sing songs, when an artist’s obligation to create has died or been beaten away,” Chris Godsey wrote.

The lyrics demand Alan Sparhawk’s voice, but they stand on their own:

When I go deaf / I won’t even mind / Yeah, I’ll be all right / I’ll be just fine. / I’ll stay out all night / Looking at the sky / I’ll still have my sight / Yeah, I’ll still have my eyes. / And we will make love / We won’t have to fight / We won’t have to speak / And we won’t have to lie. / And I’ll stop writing songs / Stop scratching out lines / I won’t have to fake / And it won’t have to rhyme.

The new Low album comes out April 12. The band released a “trailer” for the album, primarily featuring footage of them screwing around during recording at Sacred Heart Music Center in Duluth. It is yet strangely endearing and captures the Low spirit:

You can pre-order “C’mon” now (I recommend vinyl) and stream the whole thing while you wait for delivery. I did that a while ago and have listened to it several times; it really does occupy a good place in their oeuvre, somehow managing to be both new and fresh and modern, and a return to their roots. As Nels Cline wrote: “Classic Low, yet new/expanded Low. Growth!”

Low will bring “C’mon” to First Avenue’s Mainroom on April 16.

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