Low – Ones and Sixes

While some continue the quest to find the great lost chord, Minnesota trio Low have always been quite happy to re-shape and re-imagine what’s already been discovered.

There is nobody making music quite like Low – they take the bare bones of rock music and turn it into something of shivery, skeletal beauty. At the heart of what they do is a purity of vision – drums, bass, guitar and vocals – unadorned simplicity.

There is a weight to what they do, a heaviness that isn’t the result of multiple overdubs or the ‘kitchen sink mentality’ that most bands succumb to when they enter a studio. Eleventh album Ones and Sixes takes the Low brand of minimalist rock up a notch –subtle electronic elements are introduced to give texture and atmosphere to these songs, but it’s the spectral harmonies of Mimi Parker and Alan Sparhawk that draw us in.

Opening track ‘Gentle’ arrives shrouded in scratchy static and is followed by ‘No Comprende’, the first of many highlights. Built on a creeping bass line, eerie backing vocals and one of those unexpected chord changes that Low do so well.

‘No Comprende’ is vintage Low, if such a thing exists. ‘Congregation’ sees Parker take on main vocal duties for a song that appears to go nowhere particularly fast, but seeps under your skin on repeat listens. The beautiful ‘Into You’ burns brightest in the mid section of this album while ‘Lies’ and the meaty ‘Landslide’ ensure the momentum is maintained right to the finish.

Low’s greatest strength has always been their restraint – they leave space for the core elements of their music to breathe and over the course of eleven albums and twenty two years together, they have remained true to that approach.

The result? A remarkably consistent string of releases and a hugely loyal fanbase.  They are still here, still quietly conjuring the kind of magic that occasionally makes us gasp.

Ones and Sixes is up there with their very best, a record that showcases the band’s spartan approach to making music to maximum effect.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)