Low - review of in the fishtank
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Low + Dirty Three, In the Fishtank 7 [Konkurrent]

from Free Williamsburg, June 2001 - Volume 15

I am always happy to see a band get recognition where recognition is due. Especially if that band is as exceptionally talented as Low. In my opinion, Low is the most consistent indie band out there. They somehow manage to be unbelievable prolific without ever compromising the quality of their music.

I remember a few years ago people were raving about Bedhead and Ida, those other champions of the sleepy and moody Slo-Core movement. Somehow Low was still somewhat unheard of, which amazed me because they in my opinion were simply writing better music.

Times have changed and Low is slowly becoming one of the most popular bands on the indie circuit. And all I have to say is its about time.

I keep reading that this band (whose last 2 records were produced by Steve Albini) have become more accessible. I tend to agree if "accessible" implies that the tone of the music is less dark and the production has become more slick. The last couple of records have even had some string arrangements.

Where I differ though from most critics is I don't necessarily believe the adjective accessible connotes a change for the better. I like the less dark feel of the last 2 records as the band explores more poppy and less minimal melodies, but I really miss the moodiness found on older records such as The Curtain Hits the Cast. Their earlier work just seems a little more raw, a little more edgy.

The gorgeous interplay between Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker on vocals mixed with their uncanny ability to write a good song will last as long as their marriage does (hopefully forever) but I kind of miss the lower-fi days when a Low album was, well, kinda creepy.

That said, I was delighted to stumble upon their new EP In the Fishtank (yes they have a new and unrelated single out now as well). This is the latest installment of the Fishtank series on Konkurrent, where the Dutch label invites similar-minded bands into the studio to record 30 minute collaborative EP's

If you heard the collaboration between Tortoise and the Ex, you may be a little concerned since their release was less than satisfying, but I think most will be pretty pleased with the results of this session.

The haunting banjo and violin of The Dirty Three blend very nicely with the super-slow pacing of Low. Alan and Mimi obviously felt the energy and are even more inspired than usual on vocals.

I like this disk. It is more moody and ethereal than Low's last two full-lengths and this is a plus in my mind. I also can't imagine a better matching. Dirty Three and Low really go together as well as Camels and coffee. (or ketchup and fries—I quit smoking). Most of all, it is good to see Low in a minimal production environment again.

This disk was recorded in 1999 and oddly has just become available now. It has 5 original tunes and a surprising cover of Neil Young's "Down By the River." Overall, a very welcome addition to Low's canon of work and I look forward to (though none are planned) more recordings with Dirty Three in the future.

-- Robert Lanham