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Nervous Times

Alan Sparhawk of US Midwest minimalists Low tells Jonathan Wright how the band’s latest album came to embody the spirit of anxious America



One way to capture the sound of things falling apart is to disassemble your own music and put it together again in new ways.That, at least, is the approach on Low’s Double Negative, an album born amidst the bellicose anger of the dawning Trump era, and which represents its creators’ disquiet not by shouting back but in waves of static, alternately distorted and plaintive vocals, and ominous bass notes.

“While we were doing it, we were deinitely aware of what was going on,” says Low’s guitarist and vocalist, Alan Sparhawk, speaking down the line from his home in Duluth, Minnesota when LLV calls to ofer congratulations for the album’s runner-up placing in our end-of-year poll. “We started before the election and we were working on it during the elections and aterwards. And that stuf’s deinitely on our minds, the world and the way things are going – the shake to the foundations, so to speak, that everybody has taken over the past couple of years.”

For those who have lost track of the trio – Sparhawk, drummer and vocalist Mimi Parker, and bassist Steve Garrington – down the years, easy enough to do when a band is in its third decade, and expect quiet minimalism, it may initially be a confounding album, like stumbling on Portishead’s hird when expecting another Dummy.

But, says Sparhawk, there’s a consistency with the band’s previous work in terms of a central idea. “We’re always looking for that interplay between beautiful and ugly, and something that’s noisy or a little bit disturbing balancing with something that’s soothing or comforting,” he says.

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About Long Live Vinyl

Now on sale! Inside our end-of-year review special we announce the top 100 new albums of 2018, voted for by an expert panel of music writers, record shops, festival organisers, bands, and label bosses; plus Idles, Low and Boygenius sit down to tell us how they made three of the year’s outstanding records. The awards don’t stop there, as we name Long Live Vinyl’s first Record Shop Of The Year, with more than 8,000 readers helping us find the nation’s favourite store. If you’re on the lookout for a new turntable, amp, speakers or headphones this Christmas, you won’t want to miss our Gear Of The Year feature. Elsewhere this issue, we round up 40 essential krautrock classics to add to your collection, take an in-depth look at PJ Harvey’s 1993 album Rid Of Me and meet Ian MacKaye, the man behind legendary Washington D.C. label Dischord Records. If all that’s not enough, our newly expanded reviews section is packed with new albums, reissues, boxsets and hardware to add to your Christmas list. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers!