There are a lot of attempts to capture the light side of life through electronic music but just as many the dark. While it’s relatively common knowledge that brightness is a difficult if not impossible thing to grasp in music, not as many people are aware that grit are equally challenging. Filter through Bandcamp, Soundcloud, entry-level metal collections, etc. and you are bound to find groan-worthy darkwave, witch house, and a lot of music with absolutely no sense of subtlety whatsoever. Thankfully (and surprisingly, given titles like “P Is For Punish,” “Skank”, and “The Brutality of Self”), Lows doesn’t try too hard to be something it’s not, which is key to actually locking in the desired aesthetic. Shadow courses through all 45 minutes of this album, and listeners who give it a spin in the day are seriously missing out.
Outside of the unnecessarily dramatic intro and finale, every track here is intended to channel into your head. Some of the tracks do this perfectly. “Stealth Attack” grabs you from the offset, knowing exactly when to drop the synth and focus on the insanely infectious bass. “Long & Low” gets the intro the album deserves, pure oscillating static, shortly followed by extremely sudden drums and a creeping melody line presumably inspired the way a centipede walks. In similar fashion, “The Brutality of Self” captures the fear of a rapidly approaching threat with its loudly stomping rhythm, eventually building into something that hits the perfect middle line between harshness and addictiveness that most of the tracks seem to be driving for. Only a few other artists can pull that off.
Regrettably, far too many of the songs do not hit the mark Martyn’s obviously targeting. “Skank” sounds like an average rip-off of the Hotline Miami OST, complete with tense, modern rhythmic patterns and a chiptune melody that’s repetitive to the point of irritation. That last point could be used for about half of the songs on the album, and while it is very understandable and normal (one sometimes wonders if musicians employ a “throw it all at the wall and hope it sticks” approach to albums), it’s something that tends to irritate them even further.
Lows is about half mediocre, occasionally just plain poor filler like this, and about half stuff that really gives hope to a scene that hasn’t seen much of anything good or even particularly interesting since Total and Cross fell out of vogue. It’s not really possible to make a big summary statement about it, other than cliched “mixed bag” and “on the other hand” analogies. Mixed bags can be nice though, and this one is mostly nice. While that’s a substantial jump from the average, an album like this needs a few less lows and a few more highs if it wants to really impress listeners. Martyn Hare has been making music like 2001 – you can tell, but at the same time, he apparently needs a little more practice to really excel.
– Kirk B.