INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Synapse MARCH/APRIL 1977 - by Danny Sofer
DAVID BOWIE: LOW
Always known for the sensational, Mr. Bowie's latest has evoked much negative reaction from music critics and fans as well. Low is a move in the musical direction of the "English Art Rockers", such as Soft Machine, Gong, Michael Oldfield, and most notably, Brian Eno with whom Bowie collaborates on this album.
Side One is comprised of seven songs with titles like Always Crashing In The Same Car and Be My Wife; there are a few interesting moments here and there, but the side is mostly boring as seems intended by the lyrical and musical posturing. These pieces are incomplete thoughts, overtaken by a lack of interest on the part of the creator. Sonically, most of this side sounds like Another Green World, and occasionally like old Mothers. The drums played by Dennis Davis sound rather surrealistic because of the noise gates they were recorded with. The result of these noise gates is that the ambience of the drums, distorted to begin with, disappears shortly after each beat; very jagged formations.
Actually, I believe that this record makes more sense from a conceptual point of view after watching Bowie's film debut, The Man Who Fell To Earth, in which he plays an alien who gets caught up in the boredom and decadence of American society. The promotional photo of Bowie for the film is also the cover of Low.
Side Two is another story. The opener, Warsawza (War's over?), contains elements of Gregorian Chant and that Moody Blues/King crimson "death of the universe" sound created by playing sloe passages in a minor key on a Mellotron (actually a Chamberlain in this case but the two devices are very similar). There are no drums on Side Two. The ambience instead is that of Fripp and Eno's collaborations or quiet sections of Synergy or Vangelis; very "low". The titles of the other pieces on the side might give one an associative impression of the mood here: Art Decade(-ent?), Weeping Wall, Subterraneans. Subterraneans consists of a slow ascending minor bass figure, ARP String Ensemble, a guitar with a lot of slow tremolo, wailing voices, and sax; all playing meandering, melodic lines. It's very moving; it reminds me of Beaver & Krause's In A Wild Sanctuary from their first album of the same name.
Bowie has been hinting about this direction for some time. If one can accept this record as another part of a complex personality, there is much to be appreciated here; even if ya can't dance to it!