Low – Hey What – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Somehow in recent years, Low, those former pioneers of quiet slowcore have become a noise band. This development isn’t out of the blue, as far back as 1999’s Secret Name the band were bashing their way through the likes of Don’t Understand, but they seemed to take this approach to a new level with 2018’s Double Negative. Now, if anything, the follow-up Hey What is a more turbulent and more fractured album than its predecessor. It is, however less startling than Double Negative, as it feels very much like a natural successor. This time the vocals are more prominent, but once again the basics of the songs are sort of warped out, creating a strong feeling of unease.
A load of growling noise introduces the opener White Horses, a classic Alan Sparhawk/ Mimi Parker duet, smashed to bits with studio effects. The effect is to bury a melody that could have appeared on one of their more stripped-down albums like Invisible Way. The track culminates in an electronic pulse that sounds like the whole thing is going to implode. I Can Wait is another duet that builds gradually, adding big bruised guitars, while All Night has a warped, bleached out charm and a sinister yet gorgeous sounding melody.
After the first four tracks, Hey takes a turn, it’s almost lush, Parker’s frozen vocal with a lengthy ambient passage. The shifting, morphing Days Like These moves from straightforward strum to heartstopping blasts of noise, to ambient chill out. Disjointed as that may sound, in a weird way it actually works!
The sweet Don’t Walk Away (a love song?) is battered with special effects, the production on this one is particularly good, so much going on under the surface. Parker sings against fractured noise in the brief More, before the downbeat closer The Price You Pay. Here Sparhawk and Parker duet sweetly on a slowly building track which ends as the album started, with noise.
If you found 2018’s Double Negative a bit much, this Low album is definitely not for you as they are now making the most jarring music of their career. But Low are really pushing the envelope, they keep reinventing their sound to break new ground.
Days Like These