Sunday, 23 February 2014

1/2: Low (1977) **BOWIE SPECIAL**

So finally, I have purchased both Low and Hunky Dory. 6 years apart from each other, they show two different sides to Bowie; both as a composer and performer. But wait. Both albums are fantastic but I can't fit a review with enough depth about both albums in ONE post! So here's Low, first.

Here I am, mopping a floor, wiping a side to Bowie's Low. The A side to Low (although I was listening to it on iTunes - boo!!) has got a groove to it that coats your ears with an aurally pleasing sound that only goes down too well... "Speed of Life" introduces you to the album. No words needed; just a groove. One thing to notice about this side of Low is that although it still sounds surprisingly contemporary, the synth sounds really give it away as to what decade it comes from. Coming up to "What in the World" - does it not scream disco any louder?

Just a spare couple of thoughts before we crack on to the main thing that excited me about Low - "Be My Wife" is basically Blur's sound rolled into one tune, is it not? And same goes for "A New Career in a New Town" and Pulp (but... Without Jarvis) - did anyone think that?

ALSO! "Sound of Vision". I thought (bearing in mind I'm not a 70's/80's child) this tune was a tune of the 80's! The bopping drums, the cliché slow dancing (reference - BBC Series 1 of Ashes to Ashes) ... What a cracking tune, though. So uplifting, and so influential! Most of the summer hits of 2009/2010 had the same 80's vibe to it - Not to mention the dodgy shoulder pads that went along with it too.


Turn to the flip side. This is what intrigued me and frankly - EXCITED ME. How could someone with a grasp on the youth's ears compose something so out-of-t'ordinary, something so cold, something so deep yet, it's something he get away with. It starts off with Warszawa. This piece reminds me of a Phillip Glass and Godfrey Reggio film/sound production trilogy named "Koyaanisqatsi" (translates to "Unbalanced Life.") What intrigued me about this piece is that the instrumentation conjures a picture of undeveloped towns and cities warped by destruction (maybe war?). The call and response that features later on in the piece creates a sense of mourning and ownership of what's happened... This piece is absolutely astonishing. How could you put something like this on a record in the mainstream industry, 1977?!

Now, with the next piece "Art Decade", you can just imagine a little group of friends in someone's smokey bedroom with a crate of beer and good share of questionable cigarettes (I'm sure you know what I mean) lying on the floor soaking up the vibes, talking about nonsense. 

"Weeping Wall" and "Subterranean" again, repetitive and using typical vices used in the musical (as well as artistic) genre minimalism, which was pioneered in the 60's - the decade before! Interestingly enough, that's at a come back through artists like The XX etc.. (Check them out!)

There's one thing I've been doing every time I listen to Bowie's stuff. I surpass what he's done, and focus on the album using the song-by-song method. NO! There's not only a reason why he's ordered the tracks in that way, but the places he writes/records in convey through his writing. I'm so into Bowie now, but now to rewind 6 years previous to Hunky Dory in the next post...

Until then,

Over and Out!

1 comment:

  1. Great spots on the Blur, Pulp and Koyaanisqatsi sound referencees, I'd never noticed that before..

    For follow up listening - you must check out Eno's - Another Green World, which fed into and inspired Bowie to go instrumental. You'll also find a load of the musicians from the Eno album later appear on Low..

    For post Low listening: check out Stage to see how Bowie recreated the instrumental tracks live (I prefer the 'Stage' version of Speed of Life)..

    And Iggy's The Idiot to see how the Low team played around with industrial-but-pop, proto new wave soundscapes