Low Purposeful Details

Low Purposeful Details
"I've always liked records that have subliminal things going on, so it's fun to put them in our own stuff — it gives something extra to the few people who listen that close;" reveals Alan Sparhawk of Minnesota-based trio, Low. For their latest Kranky records album, Trust, the sonic subtleties are at an all-time high, but buried low enough in the mix to heavily stir the subconscious while maintaining focus on what are some of the most interestingly sublime, ambient and crafty psychological folk-pop songs ever written. "We play mostly quiet, slower, minimal music," continues Sparhawk. "Someone once described us as a cross between Simon & Garfunkel and Joy Division. A lot of people make a big deal about how slow and quiet we are, but I hope there is more to it than that."

Indeed. The ultra-fine injections of sound topography moulding by mix-meister Tchad Blake (Soul Coughing, Tom Waits, Peter Gabriel) further enhance the character of Low's mysterious and soothing music. "On the song ‘Amazing Grace,' we close-miked a piano and kind of just banged on it along to the previous rhythm track. It sounds like a tank sneaking up on you. Some would think it's a manipulated sample because it's so foreign sounding. There are a couple shakers and someone rubbing their shirt. A lot of times those subtle things are accidents, like talking between verses, cars going by, a bad tube in the chain, etc. There were a few things that Tchad manipulated so much in the mix that they ended up becoming whole new sounds. It was usually some sort of distortion. On ‘John Prine' there's a bell and then a distorted echo of the bell that sounds like a whole other instrument coming in."

The group does make sure they stay grounded with their tweakery and experimentation in the subliminal realms of sound — the end product is highly intentional. "We're very deliberate. It comes back to being minimal and spacious. There's as much of an intention as to what is going to happen — and of course the ol' ‘what's between the notes in the silence.' That's just as integral to the song as the words and notes. Most of the songs that we write are songs that you'd work out on an acoustic guitar. Then we figure out how we should record it. If there is a floor tom hit, chances are we spent way more time talking about it, trying to decide what should happen there and how hard it should be hit — much more than anyone wants to hear about."