Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google+ Share on Reddit Share on Pinterest Share on Linkedin Share on Tumblr For the last 22 years, partners Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have, under the band name Low, been crafting painfully elegant, sorrowful albums that balance silence and controlled noise. Originally from Duluth, Minnesota, Low has reached the status of “slowcore” gods (a moniker they themselves feel uneasy with) and linchpins of the alternative scene. It’s not easy for a band who made their name in an era that saw not only the proliferation of music labels but the lauding of the regular-guy-turned-rockstar to stay consistent or even relevant for that matter. But on Ones and Sixes, their 11th album, they have found new ways to stay germane to music industry and mix their minimalist aesthetic with electronic instrumentation. The old aspects of what make Low such an inventive and affecting band are still found between the layers of synth and electronic drums. Sparhawk’s and Parker’s harmonies have never been crisper. They’ve always had this angelic quality; the baritone crooning of Sparhawk layered with the gossamer soprano of Parker combine to create a form of timbral compromise. What I was surprised by was the power left in their vocals. Though Low has used synths in the past, they haven’t featured them to this degree. There is no doubt that they use their new musical textures wisely; mixing the raw emotion of guitars pumped full of distortion and reverb with the calculated abilities and feelings of synths. Ones and Sixes feels at times upbeat and confident while feeling completely hopeless at other times. “No Comprende,”, the album’s second track, starts with a chugging minor progression that quickly unravels once the chorus kicks in. But this song breaks down entirely in a stoner metal-esque interlude that revels in the large spaces created between smashed guitar chords and quickly massing synths. “Spanish Translation,” the next song, is a microcosm of the musical changes they have made as a band. It begins with soft synth chord changes reminiscent of the ‘80s. But, in Low fashion, power-wielding drums and guitars burst through the niceties that synth chords allow. This is the contrast in this album: the undulation between controlled quiet and sonic explosiveness. But there are some more “classic” (a deliberate word emblematic of Low’s lasting influence) songs. Namely, the tracks “No End,” a more guitar driven, shoegaze track that saunters in its loneliness and confusion and “Landslide,” my favorite track from the album. “Landslide” has everything that Low has been perfecting since 1993’s I Could Live in Hope. It’s dark and cloudy. The drums and guitars hammer along to a sunken beat. They converge together as Sparhawk’s sorrowful lyrics belt away until they finally shatter together to create a wall of noise. But no Low song would be complete without a minimalist and expansive outro that glides ethereal through the last five minutes of the almost ten minute track. It is one of their most poignant songs I have listened to in a long while. Low has made a career out of examining loneliness; they have often turned sorrow into great art. They have kept true to their message and their instincts and have, more than anything, shown how a band can keep going for twenty years and still find new ways to reinvent themselves while staying true to their art.