Published Sep 16, 2011After a minute of silent tuning and scattered muttering, Annabel Alpers began her laptop poptronica set as Bachelorette. Standing between two laptops, much of her music was made of pre-recorded loops triggered by a small MIDI controller. Her guitar work was seldom, simple and quickly looped, while she planted layers of vocals on top, harmonizing with herself. It looked as if one laptop was just being used to run her underwhelming visuals, mostly audio responsive wireframes borrowed from the iTunes Classic Visualizer.
Alpers, herself, is her best asset. She seems like a sweetheart, her fragile speaking voice barely above an awkward whisper, softened even more by her New Zealand accent. Her singing voice has character, a cut above the rest of her presentation. She is trying, and she needs to keep trying because her show is rather tedious. At present, she does not take enough risks to make her low-key bedroom pop engaging for more than a few songs.
Minnesota's begrudging slowcore ringleaders, Low, easily got away with a minimal aesthetic. All wearing black shirts, as if they were on their way to an acquaintance's funeral or an undergraduate art student performance, their simple setup of guitar, bass, keyboard and a four-piece drum kit smoldered relentlessly. Low kept it at a simmer, rarely breaking out into a uncovered boil before putting the lid back on the pot.
However, one never felt a lacking of virtuosity in Low's set. They proved how powerful space can be. It was like how staring up on a clear night at the stars, each millions of light years apart, leaves one feeling crushed by their magnitude and our place among them, rather than getting lost in the vast emptiness between us. The space in Low's compositions was rife with inner tension with contained energy. Lead singer/guitarist Alan Sparhawk smoothed over the sombre vibe with his humorous and generous deadpan banter, like Tom Waits but without all the insect facts.