The Jericho Tavern
3rd September 2021
After the exciting promise of their 2019 EP Shut Out the Sun, Low Island finally released their debut album, If You Could Have It All Again, in April. It was very much a DIY endeavour, as the band had no management, no label and no outside producer, recording it in a makeshift studio in France. This Jericho gig is their first headline show in two years, and a true homecoming, as a lot of the album was written down the road.
They’ve obviously spent a while perfecting their performance of songs they’ve never played live before, as their show is as curated as the album. They start with its opener, the slow-building tribute to hope “Hey Man”, end with the last track (“What The Hell (Are You Gonna Do Now?)”, a sombre chronicle of hindsight and regret) and only briefly visit their other, earlier material. However deliberate this is, it gives a picture of the band as an artist in the fullest sense of the word “art”: it’s apparent that Low Island are very good at creating and crafting moods.
Tonight’s repertoire quite effectively captures, for lack of a more appropriate cliché, the zeitgeist. Every song evokes a feeling, be it by way of the relentless drudgery of repetitive synth toplines and basslines, or fin-de-decade ennui of lyrics – coming to terms with the end of the 2010s, accepting the milestones that are inevitable with the onslaught of ageing, and even the relentless uncertainly we’ve all been through with Covid. The album is somewhat of a concept album – the narrator is a loose character looking back at the last decade – and through the sometimes rambling and disorientating layering of synths and guitars, each song is a chapter, and each chapter comes to a crescendo of nostalgia, confusion and – overall – ultimately redemption.
Released 31st January 2019
Low Island have been banging out interesting electronica for a while now. A repeating melody and busy ostinato bassline (think a more frantic Talk Talk’s “Life’s What You Make It”) makes “In Person”, the latest instalment, perhaps more commercially accessible than their other, more atmospheric and disorientating electro-pop stuff; saying that, the way it builds on this repetition – initial bare voice and bass, to which their now trademark double-track octave vocals and plinky synth chords are introduced, only to drop out periodically before the fraught electro-jam climax – is still unsettling. The whole thing exudes Friendly Fires-esque nonchalance, but controlled rather than extravagant. The lyrical argument about people feeling decreasingly connected to each other in a world of increasing digital connectedness is emphasised by the tension between the retro analogue-sounding synthesisers and modern production techniques; somewhere between the advent of popular electronic music and now, bonds have been loosened and relationships skewed.
If Low Island’s output continues in this poppier vein, they might find themselves reaching Years & Years-type heights, though their back catalogue suggests a formulaic path is unlikely. Whichever way they’re producing all this lovely stuff, they must keep it up.