Low, a band from Duluth, Minnesota, formed in 1993. The band features Alan Sparhawk on vocals and guitar, Mimi Parker on vocals and drums, and Matt Livingston on bass and vocals. Sparhawk and Parker are married with two children; they first met in fourth grade in rural Minnesota. Livingston, the latest addition to the band, replaced longtime bassist Zak Sally, who previously replaced original bassist John Nichols.
Low’s first album, I Could Live in Hope, was produced by Kramer and released on Vernon Yard Records in 1994. The band was immediately pegged as “slowcore” due to their minimalist soundscapes and the beautiful harmonies of Sparhawk and Parker, which stood in stark contrast to the era’s fascination with grunge. Low continued to work with different producers (Steve Fisk, Steve Albini, Tchad Blake, Dave Fridmann) and released a steady stream of critically acclaimed albums (Long Division, The Curtain Hits the Cast, Things We Lost in the Fire, The Great Destroyer), one-offs, collaborations, and other miscellany, including a classic Christmas album, aptly titled Low Christmas. Throughout, Low toured the world and eventually found themselves in the company of such artists as The Dirty Three, Radiohead and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
Drums and Guns is the band’s eighth full-length album and second for Sub Pop. It’s also, after 2005’s The Great Destroyer, the second album they’ve recorded with producer Dave Fridmann. Drums and Guns features a number of songs that ardent Low fans will recognize from the band’s recent live shows. These songs appear here in substantially altered forms, as though they’ve been taken apart and reassembled in striking new ways. There’s no contrivance here, however. While these songs feature new elements (looped vocals, drum machines, etc.) and are thoroughly, radiantly contemporary, they remain undeniably Low’s. Drums and Guns possesses the unique, subtle beauty and power we’ve come to expect from Low, and the record is also a breathtaking step forward.