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New Music - Night And Day,
This review is from: Low (Audio CD)
The first of a trio of albums that David Bowie co-produced with Tony Visconti at Conny Plank's Hansa Studios by the Wall in Berlin, Low (originally titled New Music - Night And Day) represented probably the most radical change of colour that the chameleon that was Bowie had so far affected. Their relatively poor sales at the time of release were instrumental in Bowie and RCA parting company (though all three reached the UK album top five), but have served only to enhance Bowie's standing over the decades.
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. The first side consists of half a dozen bursts of song featuring the augmented full band from his previous tour, albeit treated by Eno, sandwiched between two instrumentals, and including the two singles Sound And Vision (with the vocal doo-doo-doos of Mary Hopkin Visconti) and Be My Wife. Bowie had evidently been soaking up the German music scene and their are echoes of Faust, Neu!, Can and others.
If the lyrics on side one were minimal, having more or less discarded narrative, on the second side they were banished altogether for a startling eerie and wordless, largely instrumental handful of atmospheric longer textural tone poems, of which Warszawa is the centre-piece. They possibly comprise Bowie's strongest album side. Though sounding initially dark and sinister because of the (then) unfamiliarity of the sounds, they are intended to be glowing and spiritual, a positive source of regeneration and optimism, that grew out of his impressions of the Eastern bloc, though it was to be another duo-decade before the Wall was to go. Weeping Wall, despite its title, was originally intended for the soundtrack of the film The Man Who Fell To Earth, and the album cover is a still from that film, depicting Bowie as Newton, in profile (Low profile).
The composer Philip Glass used two of the pieces from side 2, Subterraneans and Warszawa, along with the unreleased composition Some Are from the same sessions, to create in 1993 his "Low" Symphony - From The Music Of David Bowie And Brian Eno.