Review - The Great Destroyer

Artist: Low


Limping through the veins of contemporary poetics, you find a lot of the same shit-plated gravitas of political upheaval, sexual saturation and golden grandma memories. All this constant poetic bravado – posing for the sake of improving a prosaic personality – is quickly losing its magnetism. How we do long for simple music that sounds effortless.

So it is that Low tastes the irony and smartly clings to all their own reticent characteristics of predictability: 10 years, seven albums, a marriage, a baby, a lilt of Mormon religion and a million slow-core moments of serenity. But in 2005, instead of the regular Low persona, we get The Great Destroyer. It's like these Minnesota darlings swallowed up a decade of their sonic envelopes of echoey otherworldliness and coughed out Destroyer with all the grit and reverb and foppish-rock chords they could muster.

That decade of experience allows Low to gnaw and chomp on their orchestral dramatics on masterpieces like "On the Edge Of" and "Silver Rider." Soak it in. Snort it up. Breathe it through. Destroyer is 4 a.m. vinyl: You throw it on after you've faced the world and your own self-doubt and come out on the other side with the realization that you just can't win. Low ably acts as the "you're not alone" choir.

Vocalist-guitarist Alan Sparhawk, drummer-vocalist (and Sparhawk's duly wedded) Mimi Parker and bassist Zak Sally take this orchestral departure from cookie-cutter slow-strum to fake brave optimism with audaciously thought-out musicality. Producer David Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips) layers Sparhawk-Parker harmonies in a way that shares intimacy with them to the point of catharsis. Parker is a Hope Sandoval-ish nymph figure in the shadows of Destroyer, her breathy contributions quickly contradicted by Sparhawk's pleasingly nullifying guitar blasts on bridges like those found on "When I Go Deaf."

If Low's 2002 album, Trust, was essentially "honest … due to its simplicity" (as Sparhawk once declared), then The Great Destroyer is tantamount to untrustworthiness. It's not complex in the composition of its individual parts, but the way that it's woven and wrapped and immutably grown in around itself makes it an intricate and subterranean affair. Perhaps as much a result of boredom with their previous sonic imprint as is the natural outgrowth of a decade-plus of musical interplay, all of Destroyer is drugged-up and plugged-in enough for Low to create a new perspective on an entirely different kind of subtlety.


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