OBEY festival focuses on artists who embrace innovation and experimentation, and though Minnesota-based band Low is known more for its downbeat music and minimalist arrangements, they're also pretty progressive when they want to be.
Note the furor stirred up by their set at last year's Rock the Garden in Minneapolis, in which they played one song–"Do You Know How To Waltz?" from 1996's The Curtain Hits the Cast–for nearly half an hour, doubling the already-lengthy 14-minute number into a meditation on drone music, and inspiring both awe and the sort of disappointed resentment one usually reserves for Toronto mayors.
But after more than two decades of recording and touring–the band formed in 1993–perhaps it's understandable that husband-and-wife team Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker might be more interested in testing their own musical boundaries than in playing a straightforward set. Minimalism by definition doesn't offer a lot of room for expansion–the band has always been a three-piece, with Sparhawk handling the guitar work, Parker gently tapping the drums and a bass player (most recently Steve Garrington), combining to create a sonic landscape that's intentionally reserved.
Low remains an enduring, quietly resounding success in a field where there few similar bands exist. Long after other slowcore/sadcore groups (Codeine, Red House Painters) have dissipated like tears on a teenager's face, Low has managed to maintain a steady, successful career. The most recent album The Invisible Way was produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Mangum hand-picked them for 2012's All Tomorrow's Parties festival, and their music pops up with some regularity on film and television soundtracks.
They're arguably the biggest band to play OBEY, and seem appropriately adventurous–can you name another indie rock band not only willing to put out a Christmas album (1999's Christmas) but make the album so good that it's one of their most critically-adored efforts? Maybe they've got another 28-minute "Do You Know How To Waltz?" up their sleeves.
Friday, May 23 at 8pm
Fort Massey United Church