The music of Seattle's Low Hums might accept you into its twilight world as it did me. These are songs, not just sounds, but they don't force the issue or clamour like a needy child; just swirl around doing disarmingly beautiful stuff. That's surprisingly rare. So the gentlest of changes can spark a spectacular corona from glowing embers. It's folky, psychedelic and definitely droney, while invoking a realm completely unlike the alleys those terms might lead you down.
Whether illusory or not, I find taking off on foot into the middle of anywhere provides me with a kind of freedom; from institutions, mass communication, bills, bell-ends and the joyless hell of practicality. It might be as close as I can get to that most stigmatised of concepts, 'getting in touch with nature'. Then again, pockets of wonder can be found in deserted industrial estates as much as rolling hillsides. On their publicity dispatches, Low Hums readily acknowledge the clarity and escape afforded by just wandering about the place. As Joey Barton may have informed you, Friedrich Nietzsche said 'All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking', and I get the sense of a revelatory third eye opening through their strolls. An ugly, transitory world fading into the distance; dead nature returning to life to reclaim the Pacific Northwest.
To describe this as 'hypnotic' is no idle allusion to monotony. There's a potency in the melodies and mantras that took me to the bosom of this album immediately, yet it's often so delicately played it feels as though the slightest disturbance could crumble it to ash. They rarely go for the 'nice' notes, with odd diminished intervals and bare arpeggios providing a sinister edge. Pedal steel and keys are a ghostly presence that creeps in and out of the songs; they are used sparingly, unobtrusively.
Vocally, they largely work within parameters that maintain a consistent narcotic mood. The male/female harmonising on 'Hand's First Flower' is particularly striking and the accompaniment is the closest thing here to the arid daze of Jonas Haskins' former band Earth. While that's like being part of some sort of pagan ritual, 'Black Rabbit' whispers directly into my ear, as exploratory tom rolls and cracked guitar howls drag me even further into the undergrowth.
Laid down predominantly live in one Halloween recording session, there's an immediacy and intimacy that percolates through, even though it's perfectly possible that most of these tunes developed out of jams. Even the short songs go mineshaft deep : The wormwood-addled ballad 'Soft Eyes' is a feather with the the force to knock you for a statutory eight count, and 'Midnight Roads' is stippled with intoxicating visions ('It's all come around me now / sip whiskey with your dead').
The best thing about this band is that I don't get the impression they're desperately trying to be any particular thing. They're lightning conductors. Though you could probably pick up a guitar and lay bare the raw science behind the Low Hums LP, the weird magic of its creation would (thankfully) prove elusive.
Posted: Mon 28 May 2012