Album review: Low – Hey What

Album review: Low - Hey What

An experimental touch to rock music

Low’s latest album Hey what is a testament to the power of experimental rock, going even further than its predecessor. The band’s choice to delve even deeper into experimental sound is seamlessly integrated into a fully realized soundscape that takes elements from other genres and truly makes it their own. Oddly enough, it seems appropriate to link more experimental hip-hop groups with this album due to the sheer intensity of the music that people get. He’s cohesive in a way that doesn’t trump any talent, a delicate enough balance that has largely gone the line in recent years. Instead, the band makes sure everything is done in great detail to avoid some sort of overwhelming density of reverb that keeps them from being engaging to listen to.

The instrumental opening of “White Horses” is more reminiscent of a Death Grips instrument than a traditional rock song just by its intensity. He’s strong, aggressive and punctuated throughout. With distorted electronic loops, increased reverb, and moody output, Low’s opener cements their new electronic embrace. It all sounds a bit strange, with the voices quieter against the dark instrumentals. It sounds almost choral compared to the dense melody. Perhaps the most impressive part of the song is its rapidly accelerating rhythms in its instrumental break, where its repeated leaps make a phenomenal bridge to the next track. The smooth transition is admirable which makes the album more cohesive.

“Disappearing” begins as a diversion on the record from the tracks that precede it, due to a greater focus on its lyrics. However, the base’s bellow loop creates an experimental advantage that keeps it from losing itself completely in its electronic soundscape. That is until the song takes a drastic turn towards a more distorted vocal performance. As the bassline sizzles, the voice becomes more choppy. The descent into this sound creates a much more sonically interesting work, before falling into the brilliant opening of “Hey”.

The longest song on the album, “Hey” doesn’t sound long enough. This is easily the best trail on Hey what, as it adopts an interesting use of autotune over its backing vocals to make a call and response that creates a devastating representation of the loss. Its instrumental breaks give a more nuanced and interesting listening beyond a traditional rock ballad. All of his choices work, as spurious as it may seem at first glance. It is a work that combines more naturalistic instruments such as violins with electronic music in a fascinating mix. Unlike many albums which often get lost in long tracks, this one seems to gain strength as it continues. In fact, it could be in the running for one of the best rock tracks this year. It’s just so interesting, so powerful to listen to. Not a moment seems lost.

“Don’t Walk Away” uses few words in a nice way. It’s more of a dream-pop sound than the denser instrumentally. The anxieties of loving someone come to the fore with his dreamy use of the voice. The more natural timbre of the voice is different from the rest of the album, as only its instrumentals plunge into the characteristic reverberation of the album. Thus, this allows the love ballad to really glean the most meaning from the listeners. It’s a beautiful piece in its own right, going back to more minimalist roots.

Closing the album, “The Price You Pay (It Must Be Wearing Off)” by Low is an almost perfect closing for the album. It recalls its opening beats in a way that keeps it from being repetitive. He doesn’t try to give more instrumentals beyond what is needed, and his drum additions are certainly a welcome touch in his long shutdown. It is a powerful work that does not let experimentation prevent it from getting lost in the noise. Hey now is a great album that really understands its purpose. Every act is intentional and pleasant to listen to. Even with many instrumentals, it doesn’t seem to slow down at any point; this album is really a great addition to this year’s rock albums.


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