As a young Bowie fan, I always found the first side of the album, with its sharp and easily recognisable rhythms and short cutting-edge tracks (few more than three minutes long), much more listenable to that the second, mostly instrumental side. Over the years I've come to appreciate the Eno atmosphere that was laid down and can see how Low with its sonic scapes might have begun life as part of the soundtrack to the film The Man Who Fell to Earth. The album is more montage than theme, though the special effects that cut through Sound and Vision chillingly reflect a drug induced breakdown. The jagged edges of Low are often attributed to the fragmentation that Bowie was suffering as a recovering cocaine addict. Self-destruction is carried through the album by the icy, mannered vocals.
Speed of Life opens the album with a jolt thanks to Ricky Gardiner's sharp guitar. The more lengthy and suspense-filled Warszawa, was used to open the 1978 and 2002 tours. It made sure that the audience were on tenterhooks until Bowie took to the stage.
With its texturing, layering and juxtaposing of random sounds and instruments, including an eventide harmonizer, Low is certainly an ambitious album and one that wasn't well-received by critics at the time. It does, however, show a Bowie who was had turned 30: a man growing up, coming into his own.
Without Low we'd have no Joy Division, no Human League, no Cabaret Voltaire, and I bet, no Arcade Fire. The legacy of Low lives on. --Susie Goldring
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Bowie has described the album as one that was extremely important to him and which had an influence on English music thereafter through its ambience and drum sounds. All three albums (Low, "Heroes" and Lodger) featured the involvement of Brian Eno, whose presence is clearly audible throughout, though on Low he is working to Bowie's brief rather than in true collaboration and has only one shared composer credit on the album, Warszawa.
Work on the album began in France at the Chateau d'Hérouville in June 1976, where Bowie was working with Iggy Pop in preparation for his album, and both albums feature the two of them with Ricky Gardiner and Carlos Alomar on guitars. Low therefore also belongs to a second trilogy, alongside The Idiot and Lust For Life, its sequel.
Bowie and Iggy relocated in 1976 to Berlin, to live and work and to kick their cocaine habits - a bizarre strategy which against all odds seemed to work. The resultant Low is an album of two distinct sides, an aspect that the CD format slightly unravels.... Read more ›
Low is the first of the set from the Berlin trilogy, which included also the LPs "Heroes", and Lodger, which also received lesser acclaim. Low was a relative commercial failure producing one surprise-hit single, Sound And Vision.
After an alienating period in Los Angeles in 1976 (during the soul LP, Station to Station) with cocaine binges and the disintegration of his marriage, Bowie looked for the coldness and isolation of Berlin and lived in semi-recluse for three years. This is heard in the album that (with help from producer Brian Eno) echoes the surroundings and his feelings well.
While the first half of the album is consecutive in catchy songs and is quite easy on the ear Side B is a collection of avant-garde gloomy instrumentals which contains Bowie with an almost opera voice chanting over simple notes played on state of the art synthesisers.
Highlights on the first side are the revealing Be My Wife that exhibits much of his situation and his dissatisfaction which America: I've lived all over the world; I've left every place. It goes someway to express the despair in his defunct relationship with Angie Barnett. Breaking Glass and Sound And Vision portrait remoteness "pale blinds drawn all day, nothing to do, nothing to say" from the latter.... Read more ›
the album is basically spilt into two halves (side one and two, if it were vinyl); the first half consists of tracks with vocals. these are all three-minute blasts of germanic pop perfection, with interestingly textured, melodic arrangements that camouflage the often bleak and dark lyrics- but i'll come back to that later. iggy pops up (no pun intended) on vocals for 'what in the world'. the classic 'sound and vision' is here as well, with it's great guitar hook. while listening to this album, it really struck me that bowie's backing band are really quite good, especially carlos alomar on the guitar. the short, punchy and strangely desperate 'breaking glass' is great as well. side one is book-ended by two bouncy, poppy instrumentals with great hooks and melodies, 'speed of life' and 'a new career in a new town'.
side two is the instrumental side, consisting of four tracks that run together for about twenty minutes as one gloomy, bleak and incredibly atmospheric suite of music: 'warszawa' (and no, i don't know how to say it either), 'art decade', 'weeping wall' and 'subterraneans'. the sound reminds me of german electro-wizards kraftwerk. when i read in a review that half of 'low' was instrumental, i was a bit put off, thinking i'd be bored after about three minutes.... Read more ›
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