Low – Hey What
John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: Live in Seattle
It used to be the break-up album. Now, it’s the Covid album we all want to talk about. Pandemic work conditions have been something of a gift for reviewers who can now spend a paragraph or two talking about the difficulties of working around social distancing, but the virus has also delivered a handy batch of catch-all metaphors – all in it together, high and low brought down as one, no man an island – that help add meaning to even the simplest pop song. Nothing new, of course, about social isolation in music recording. The members of Deep Purple were so at odds that no two of them were in the studio at the same time during the making of Burn. That was during the 1970s ego pandemic.
It’s rare to come across a record that speaks quite directly to our present situation without making a single overt reference to it. Such is the deliciously scarifying new album from Low, the improbable Mormon duo of Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk. Their last outing, Double Negative, was memorably described as “a Gothic cathedral near the edge of the universe”. The new one, Hey What (Sub Pop) is a missive from Ground Zero, dark and distorted, seemingly beyond repair, but shot through with moments of chastened joy.