Low, Songs for a Dead Pilot
Another way to avoid commercialization, if you're cataloging them, is to play really slowly. Advertising relies on urgency; if you're calm and content, there's a very real danger that you'll fall asleep, instead of dutifully driving to the mall, like you're supposed to. 2:30 is a sprint in pop terms, but an epic on the scale of TV commercials. In the accelerated time-frames of advertising, then, a band who move as slowly as Low are effectively invisible. Low songs are lucky to make it through an entire measure in thirty seconds, much less a tag-line-elevating chorus. They play soundtracks for glaciers melting, or friendships evolving, or hope draining out of lives, or slowly consuming the oxygen in a sealed room. Their songs are meditations, and interludes, and surrenders, and these are all anathema to economic frenzy. Songs for a Dead Pilot, then, a six-track, thirty-five minute EP recorded at home by the band, I take as a breathtakingly well-chosen Christmas present to a world that needs, more than anything shiny it will think to ask for, or get elsewhere, a moment of perspective. "Will the Night" is the song the winds would play, if you gave them guitars. "Down by the Wires" is a lament scored for clock towers, or statuary. "Be There" is the sound of an empty house's appliances, singing softly to each other, to ward off the dark silence. "Landlord" is an apologetic exit march for trees, grown finally too sad to share our contaminated lands. The two songs that approach human dimensions, the withering, ethereal "Condescend" (with an elegiac string trio, and a baby's crying left in as if her opinion is no less valid than anybody else's) and the fragmentary, judgmental "Hey Chicago", are barely quicker, but perhaps, they seem to me to suggest, we can find the words to say to buildings, and oceans, and the sky, after all, that will keep them from abandoning us as a lost cause. We need thirty-five days of this, I fear, a Buy Nothing Season, to really convince the planet that we are more than a buzzing distraction, but perhaps a day is what a minute can become, if you have the patience to nurture it properly.
- glenn mcdonald (this review is copyrighted by him, 1997)