Low Gorgeously Marvel at the Unknown on ‘Disappearing’

Low Gorgeously Marvel at the Unknown on ‘Disappearing’ thumbnail

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“Disappearing” is the sound of anticipating, hoping, and wanting perpetually. There is no resolution in the song, no broad smile and a hardy “That’s all folks.” It’s simply three-and-a-half minutes of throbbing, unrequited yearning, Low at their very best, and it is beautiful.

For nearly three decades, Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, a married couple from Duluth, Minnesota, have specialized in heartrendingly austere meditations on the human condition. In Low’s world, the less said, the better, and their instincts for minimalism could make Marie Kondo look like a hoarder; they don’t even have a bassist in the incarnation of Low on their upcoming record, Hey What. All they have at their disposal are their perfectly attuned harmonies, instruments that can evoke both the graceful and grotesque, and their own observations.

On “Disappearing,” Parker’s and Sparhawk’s voices rise and fall like the waves they sing about. In unison, they set a scene about ships coming and going, unreality becoming reality, and longing. “Every time I see that ship go out, it feels like everything’s complete,” they sing. “But somebody somewhere is waiting, some other ocean at her feet.” The words seem plain by themselves, but as the swelling, moderately distorted chords that have been backing them up segue into the kind of noise that makes you want to check your speakers, the tone shifts completely, and the song suddenly feels newly profound. They sing the same melody with “na-na-na’s,” an angelic “Hey Jude” refrain piercing through the scabby pustules of noise, that add gravity when they finally restore order to their audio vignette, singing:

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That disappear on the horizon

It brings cold comfort to my soul

An ever-present reminder

A constant face of the unknown … unknown

They lift that last “unknown” into an awkward position sonically, one that usually would be resolved at the end of a song but instead, they extinguish the noise unceremoniously. After all, it’s unknown, and the unknown will always be unanswered. The song’s stunning music video stars its director, Dorian Wood, who is also an accomplished musician with a penchant for uniquely challenging art, and it perfectly reflects the song’s questioning, but with a rare glimmer of optimism.

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