On tour in support of their acclaimed 2018 release, Double Negative, Indie veterans Low made a highly-anticipated stop in Madison Saturday night. The 25-year-old indie rock trio comprised of singer, songwriter Alan Sparhawk, drummer Mimi Parker and bassist Steve Garrington plowed through a set packed with new material and favorites from their beloved discography.
The band’s live aura Saturday night was positively hypnotic. Their winding song structures, repetitive rhythms and extreme dynamic shifts make for a show that was intensely absorbing for its audience.
Slowly swaying and nodding along, the High Noon crowd was deeply lost in the mood of each moment. This mesmerizing effect was amplified by the tour’s creative light design: Three vertical columns, arranged in individual strips to appear like blinds on windows.
Low’s new LP, “Double Negative,” marks another surprising evolution in the band’s long history. Recorded in Eau Claire with renowned producer, BJ Burton, the album amounts to some of the most sonically-forward music of 2018.
The ambiance of this album is fractured, gritty and highly unexpected.
“We were using the studio as a big element in the writing process,” Sparhawk said. “You’re much more in control. You’re trying to create something that will, at least philosophically, live on in a particular form.”
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The band had to do some reimagining and rearranging to execute these studio-heavy compositions in their usual three-piece lineup.
Sparhawk said he has enjoyed the new challenge of rendering some of these more fragile, intricate songs on the stage and their capacity to surprise him each night.
“Live is a whole different thing. You’re basically playing with the moment, creating a moment,” Sparhawk said. “At the end of the day, we’re a live band. We’ve been playing here and there forever and it’s the core of what we do.”
Some of the most compelling moments of the night arrived through the new material off Double Negative. There seemed to be an urgency and anxiety about these compositions that made them especially potent in a live setting.
Parker pushed the band forward with an intoxicating energy on the opener, “Quorum,” a guttural, grimy daydream of a song. “Dancing with Blood” smoldered in suspense over its looped drum figure, climaxing in frenetic spikes of energy that the band delivered in tight unison.
On the stripped-down arrangement of “Fly,” Garrington showcased his athletic, sophisticated playing and kept up the rest of the band’s momentum.
Considering Low has played together for 25 years, the group understandably appears in their element even when making otherworldly, envelope-pushing sounds. To witness Low on the stage is to experience their long-practiced ritual of “moment-making” and their consummate mastery of this art.