If the radical painter, Jackson Pollock, made music he might approach it like this album. Pollock was known for a technique of throwing paint onto canvases that created ultra-abstract imagery but as random as they’d appear, you could interpret them as containing emotion within.
In interviews Danish noise-pop quartet, Lowly, have described their method of creating music as being like painting onto canvases (rather than drafting stories in the multi-paginal qualities of a book) and, like Pollock, their songwriting and compositions contain a blend of the abstract and the emotive.
Like the album cover of the debut album, Heba , that came out on February 10 – which appears to be a unique take on the art of still life – there’s a range of textures and shapes on their first long player ready to exercise the mind. Four equally imaginative musically schooled brains from Denmark conjure up indescribable ideas individually by themselves first and when they come together to create a song, it’s something magical and inspiring.
With it’s effervescent and rubbery production (“Deer Eyes”), bending echoes (“Stubborn Day”), soothing air of emptiness (“Cait #2”) and submarine sonar-like sounds, it feels like Lowly’s world is deep within a thick subterranean ocean (admittedly the swirling hypnotic waves in the music video for “Word” help paint this vision).
However, due the band’s ability to create sounds that are evocative, individual listeners can picture their own scenery and vast landscapes. Like the multi-paginal qualities of a book, it’s largely subjective.
Examples of this intriguing production include “Not So Great After All“ (sounding like a helium balloon pumped up amongst a flock of birds), “No Hands” (morse code messaging inside an Asian temple), and “Prepare The Lake” (brilliant use of fuzzy stereo techniques making one feel drowned in television static) but adhering to their band name, everything is lowly, subtle and spacious rather than suffocating and pretentious.
There’s the impression that the album could suffer from being directionless and lost but there is some consistency that brings it all together. Steffen Lundtoft’s distinctive shuffling rhythmic drums (similar to Philip Selway in Radiohead’s In Rainbows) and the kind, self-assured and grounded vocals of Nanna Schannong link the tracks together.
Lyrically, the album is more about projecting emotion than direct storytelling, This being on purpose because writing from a subjective perspective is conflicting where there several song crafters in one band. Negatively, this makes the songs pretty hard to sing a long to or feel connected with, at least on the first few listens.
Yet within this lyrical collage, there are still a few topic-specific songs, including “Mornings”, which is about dissolving friendships and caring about situations that aren’t in one’s control: “How have you been? Because I’ve been fine/Although we shatter and cut the lines”.
There’s also “Deer Eyes”, which is surprisingly about Britney Spears bald-headed mental breakdown in 2007 in which she conceded her dignity to the media: “Lose the hair, it’s all something to reflect on/Lose the kids, they no longer need to depend on you”.
The title of the album, Heba, is also named after the band’s Syrian friend, and was chosen also as reflection of how helpless they feel as Westerners about the Syrian refugee crisis, unable to make an impact. Perhaps there is a concept after all: helplessness and a lack of precise control that Lowly have encapsulated in their wayward composition and vague lyrics. Something that you could interpret, daresay, in a Jackson Pollock work of art.
Lowly’s Heba EP can be purchased on iTunes, here.
Words by Matt Hobbs
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