Wednesday, September 12, 2007


In the long interregnum between The Curtain Hits the Cast and Secret Name, Low made their most significant EP. At 35 minutes, Songs For a Dead Pilot might as well be a mini-album, and the stuff here is more striking than anything from the Transmission EP or any of their other small collections. It's telling that SFaDP is the one of the few EPs that isn't collected on A Lifetime of Temporary Relief, and although I've only had access to these tracks for a short while I already know it's one of my favourite Low releases.

It also seems to be one, at least from Alan's old notes, with significant input from Zak. For Landlord Alan notes that "zak brought the rough idea in. it's about trying to make music in your tiny appartment. you always sound cautious and tiny," which is an interesting place for a song to start from. And although the song is nearly seven minutes, it definitely holds pride of place as the most painstakingly introverted track Low has made yet, even if the lyrics do venture a bit further afield:

the landlord in mind, as
the microphones pick up
the soft ones.

the carpets in mind, as
the microphones pick up
the soft ones,
the loud ones,
the slow ones,
the bright ones,
the meaningful ones,
the distance,
the good pets,
the wordless,
the stateless.

The intro to "Landlord" sounds pretty conventional for Low, post-The Curtain Hits the Cast, but as the first two minutes wind their way to the beginning of Alan's vocals things actually get slower and smaller. Everything but the ever-more-gently played guitar slowly reverses out of view, and then Alan (sounding as if he's singing through a sock) tremulously pleads with himself to keep it small, so we don't get kicked out.

But that second... "verse" seems inadequate, but you know what I mean... turns into a plea to consider the value of silence and of listening. As Alan stops singing at four and a half minutes the drum and bass come back in and the guitar strum gets stronger, brighter, but it all stays to a level that wouldn't rouse someone sleeping above or below. The brief, repeated guitar hook is one of the few ones in a Low song that I could imagine as part of a sped up (normal speed) noisy rock song, something I could see the Retribution Gospel Choir or especially the Black Eyed Snakes whipping out. Here it's quieter than the rest of the song. But the microphone picks it up.


T. Neuf said...

I just found this blog, and it's really fantastic. I just got into Low only a couple months ago, and this is one of the songs that absolutely stunned me the first time I heard it- I must have played it five times in a row or more. It's one of the quietest yet most intense songs I've ever heard-a truly foreboding number, and when Sparhawk starts listing those "ones", well it's among my favorite Low moments.

Ian said...

Hey, thanks! I've been remiss about updating this blog, but I am hoping to change that soon. Just keep an eye on the RSS feed...