Thursday, June 21, 2007

Half Light


I have never seen The Mothman Prophecies, and it's only years after I'd first heard Low's "Half Light" (which plays over the credits, apparently) that I've become intrigued about it. I always knew "Half Light" was from that movie when I downloaded it; the version you can hear in the video above is the single mix, and the MP3 I have is the near seven-minute end credits mix. It's even creepier, with someone (Alan? IMDB tells me they're by "Indrid Cold," but you'll forgive my skepticism) whispering away in the background in a way that makes headphone listening a little uncomfortable. The track, as might be guessed from the unusual-for-the-time attack and drum loop of "Half Light," is a collaboration with tomandandy who did the score which takes up the second disc(!) of the OST, which I am seriously considering putting a reservation in for at work. "Half Light" is a great track, and I'm at least mildly intrigued by the rest of the selections.

Tomandandy also, at least according to Wikipedia, "redefined the way in which music for media was created by appropriating aesthetics of the avant-garde and bringing them into pop culture" which is an idea I'm deeply, deeply ambivalent about. But on "Half Light" I'm happy enough with them - they mainly give Mimi a beat she can ride, as far as I can make out, and she does a fantastic job. Alan's guitar is similarly oddly satisfying, as coming over half a year before even Trust "Half Light" is further preliminary evidence that Low can do things assumed to be outside their zone of comfort/competance and in fact do them quite well. The loping beat and some of Mimi's backing vocals (at her spectral best) make me think of trip hop, but the rest of the track is too active and crunchy for that to really hold. It wouldn't really fit on any of Low's albums, and I'm not wholly surprised that the A Lifetime of Temporary Relief didn't grab either "Half Light," as it doesn't collect Low's other collaborations either (most notably the In the Fishtank disc with the Dirty Three).

"Half Light" isn't quite as creepy as some of Low's own songs, mainly because it seems to be trying to weird us out (although, yeah, "Indrid Cold" does get to me sometimes), but it's incredibly successful at the time I downloaded it (back when the movie came out, after hearing a snippet in an ad or something similar) as an expansion of the band's sound. I never thought this was the direction Low was moving in, and I'm not upset I was right about that, but anyone who thinks they only work one way or can only successfully make one type (or speed) of song should check out "Half Light."

Also, that video above? Was my first inkling, post Things We Lost in the Fire and Secret Name, of just how creepy Alan can be. In the context of the band's other albums and further examination of tracks like "Don't Understand" his demeanor in the "Half Light" clip would seem more in line with his normal persona, but at the time I mostly thought of him (and Low in general) as a fairly positive/reassuring/uplifting act, possibly in a kind of holdover from thinking of them as a Christian band. While Alan and Mimi's songs often manage to make me feel uplifted or similarly good, it's not because they're treacly or even very positive; "bleak" is probably an underused word to describe Low's music, even if that's at least partly because it runs the risk of being heard as a pejorative instead of the praise that it's intended to be. As for the video, I imagine the two of them had a lot of fun making it, not that they ever break what you might call character during the finished product. I like it, although it's not exactly wildly innovative.


Inverarity said...

I don't know of a band as unremittingly bleak as Low, but that's what I love about them. They live up to their name, that's for certain. Any idea where that came from, by the way?

I remember liking the song - I heard it over the credits when a family member was watching the DVD - but didn't know it was Low. Which isn't surprising, as it's possibly the most uncharacteristic track I've heard. It's a good song, but it hardly feels like them. I think "triphop" is a fair characterization.

P.S. What's wrong with bringing aspects of the avant garde into pop culture?

Ian said...

I'm not sure where they go the name. Hmm. I may need to research that.

There's not wrong with it... necessarily. But it can either result in the avant-garde enriching mainstream culture, or the mainstream watering down the avant garde. I'm sure you can imagine which of those two I feel a bit paranoid about.

Unknown said...

Hello. I only now found your site. I love what you have to say about the music. I myself, grew up in Point Pleasant, West Virginia. I am here at the moment with my family. I only left for brief periods of time. I found this song especially to be, absolutely wonderful for the movie. In the town that I grew up in, the Mothman, is the Boogyman. Lol. I was so impressed when I went to the premier of this movie that the soundtrack was so amanzing. Thank you for posting this.

Ian said...

Well thanks, Robin! It's neat to hear from someone who grew up with the Mothman.

Dustin said...

The band Low is from Duluth, Minnesota, and I actually just looked into them after I had heard that my professor/instructor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design had been in the band (I think I heard him mention it, but not the name, and then I looked up his name online and found mentions of his 'former band he was in called Low'). Then yesterday I found all these music videos on Youtube, and found out that Low had actually toured with Radiohead in Europe in 2003! The band is bigger than I originally had thought (or, more accurately, wildly guessed, as I hadn't looked up any information until recently).