The monks have broken their vow of silence. Low, the Duluth trio famous for its quiet, slow music, has gradually moved toward more aggressive sounds, culminating with the excellent new album The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop).
The mix of quiet, delicate moments and louder rave-ups sounded great in concert. Low still knows how to bring a hush over an audience. Low’s strength lies in compelling melodies, putting them across with cool harmonies and a minimum of musical accompaniment. How many other bands have a drummer who plays the whole show standing up?
Alan Sparhawk dedicated the new song “Death of a Salesman” to Arthur Miller, the author of the play of the same title, who’d died earlier in the day. He also noted he was playing it on a guitar signed by Chuck D. It’s a lovely and haunting song, performed solo by Sparhawk, in which the narrator gives up his efforts at writing music after being told by friends: “Music’s for fools, you shoul go back to school, the future is prisons and math.” It’s not the only song on The Great Destroyer about negation or abandoning music. Another track wistfully imagines the day “When I Go Deaf,” before erupting into a chaotic guitar solo.
Opening act Pedro the Lion played a solid set of tunes, sticking close to the band’s signature sound, pausing for a peculiar question-and-answer session with the audience (in which one man asked permission to use Pedro the Lion songs in a movie he’s making). The band cut loose on a cover of Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues,” joined by Sparhawk on guitar.
Pedro the Lion was preceded by an interesting solo performance by Tim Rutuli of Califone, who proved himself adept at both folksy blues and impromptu sonic experimentation (building layers of sound with a Casio “Rap Man”).