Charming lo-fi folk from two Sheffield brothers.
Low Duo are, unsurprisingly a duo of brothers from Sheffield. Their music fits vaguely into the genre of alt-folk, alongside other lo-fi luminaries like Sparklehorse and Elliott Smith and this record certainly matches their gloomy aesthetics. This is the debut album for the group and it follows three fantastically named EPs (Hope and Despair, Fear and Failure, and Truth and Regret) which give you an idea of the level of melancholy we are dealing with.
The bands greatest strength is its commitment to minimalism. Each song is really only two layers, a vocal and a guitar, the latter of which is generally acoustic, and when it isn’t it is rough and ragged, like on opener ‘Keep Your Sparkle in the Pain’. The effect is unsettling, and aligns with a lot of the creepy themes running through the record. Most songs have a reference to death and/or pain and constantly use animals as a crucial part of their imagery, as in ‘Eagle’ below.
This focus on nature and fits the extreme lo-fi recording style, the band sound wild, with all the earnestness, calm and savagery that that would imply. It’s what Bon Iver’s debut album might have sounded like had he not been obsessed with girls and instead run naked through the woods every day.
According to the band the album is about ‘putting yourself back together’ and there is optimism tucked away amongst the overwhelming gloom. They manage to capture the Sparklehorsian trick of finding beauty in the dirt, as with ‘Born In To A Spider’ that is simultaneously skin-crawling and tender.
The album isn’t perfect, at only 8 tracks, none of which run longer that 3:09, it feels far too transient for a true debut LP. It also suffers from its maker’s devotion to lo-fi recording: none of the songs ever feel truly powerful. They pull off tender and bare very well, but there is no obvious single and nothing that jumps out on first listen.
The true highlight however is album closer ‘Bloodhound, where singer Leigh Greenwood lets his voice drop below its usual high tone, and it offers a more calm and reflective take on love’s brutality. The gentler approach really pays off to match the lyrics, and some delicate ooh-ing results in a nice earworm to take from the album’s end.
Dive and Slide into the Blue came out a couple weeks ago, and I should’ve reviewed it a while ago, I’m sorry. As penance, please accept these links to the bands facebook, soundcloud and bandcamp, where you can buy their album for as little as £2, which is very generous.