It’s the artists who cut against the grain that last, as the three-decade career of Low attests. In the nineties, indie rock was fast, loud, short, and snotty, so the group from Duluth, Minnesota—married couple Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, with a series of bassists culminating in Steve Garrington—made it slow, quiet, long, and darkly elegant. Sparhawk’s lapping guitar and Parker’s brushed drums blended with their vocal harmonies, inviting immersion and intimacy.
Though Low is the keystone of what came to be called slowcore, they’ve never claimed or been restricted by the genre. Almost as soon as they established their sound, they began to absorb elements of drone music, skyscraping Midwestern post-rock, minimalist electronics (picked up during their time on Kranky, which released their signature record, Things We Lost in the Fire), and the polished indie rock favored by their current label, Merge Records. By the time of 2005’s The Great Destroyer, said The Village Voice, Low’s frozen quietude had become a blizzard, though the songs were ripe to be picked apart at transcendent lengths in their legendary live sets.
In 2018, Low released Double Negative, which Pitchfork called the band’s Kid A: an unsuspected quantum leap that was latent all along. Invoking William Basinski, My Bloody Valentine, and Björk, Pitchfork said, “This record would knock listeners on their asses coming from any band at any time, but it is extraordinary that Low is doing such challenging, relevant work twenty-five years into their career.” New album HEY WHAT continues their audacious new adventures in vocal effects and fiery protest rock; in a pre-release interview, Pitchfork called it their “strangest, strongest, and most fearless music to date.”