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Low - Trust

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Artist: Low

Album: Trust

Label: Kranky

Review date: Sep. 23, 2002

Missouri Would Love Some Company

Low is the kind of band who might write a song called "Missouri" and pronounce it "misery." Low is the kind of band for whom "uptempo" might, on a good day, mean sixty beats per minute. In short, Low is one of the most aptly-named bands in rock.

In fact, of all the adjectives commonly used to describe Duluth's sadcore pioneers – minimal, haunting, painstaking, unsettling – their own probably sums it up the best. Their work is achingly slow, unabashedly sad, and beautifully spare; consistent enough that you know it'll bring you down, but diverse enough that you're not sure how.

So you listen to Trust, full-length number six, expecting at least more of the same: almost music. Sparsely brushed drums, soft metallic echoes of familiar guitars under hushed half-truth lyrics. And you are rewarded – but not surprised – by the opening seven-minute dirge "(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace," a slow, soft, sad, dense atmosphere of layered shy sounds with funereal words chanted on top. But then things get more interesting with "Canada," a faster number less like Low than, say, fuzzy mid-90's R.E.M. From there it returns mostly to typical Low: lilting, fragile soundscapes like "Tonight" and "John Prine," and predictably lethargic singalongs like "Point of Disgust" and "In The Drugs."

Yet, interspersed throughout are little glimpses of a more assertive, more direct and thus tangibly powerful approach to the songs. "Snowstorm" is almost lively (despite the opening lines "When we were young we wanted to die"), and certainly stands out among its peers. Meanwhile, "I Am The Lamb" confronts that native Low angst outright and sounds downright primal, and the pinnacle of the lovely "Little Argument With Myself" recalls those heart-rendingly intimate parts of Radiohead's last two albums that grounded them in humanity. More feelings come across on Trust, and not just those of remorse and distant despair. Joy is still a long way off, but it is becoming easier and easier to tell that this is music made by real people.

Whether this is a growth or expansion for Low is a question that cannot or should not be answered, at least not here. The songs on Trust dance between stillness and movement to a greater degree than Low's earlier work, as though gathering energy in between sporadic bursts of personal outpouring. They are also less stripped down, not as a whole, but in intermittent sublime moments like the piano of "Point of Disgust" or the unexpected horns in "Little Argument." Trust offers a great deal to the new listener and the veteran, composed of surprisingly few dull moments and new layers revealing themselves with every listen. Just don't expect to feel too good afterwards.

By Daniel Levin Becker

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The Invisible Way

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