Album: Low

A Lifetime of Temporary Relief, ROUGH TRADE
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The Independent Culture

The self-deprecating title speaks volumes about the American indie/sadcore trio's unassuming approach to music, which is diffident to the point of abject timidity in places. Such is Low's reluctance to impose their own value judgements on their output that they've swept their entire cupboard of off-cuts into this three-CD-and-one-DVD box, which features a decade's worth of B-sides, rarities and sundry loose ends recorded for small labels such as Sub Pop, Kranky, Touch & Go, and Tugboat. Hence the tone of the band's annotations: "Admittedly not our favourite recording," they say of one piece; of another they "did a better version of this at the BBC, but it was accidentally erased"; while another is shrugged off with, "Mimi wrote this in five minutes while washing the dishes". Don't blow your own trumpet too hard, guys! As always, the tempi are slow, the arrangements sparse and Alan Sparhawk's vocals undemonstrative, burnished by Mimi Parker's angelic harmonies. Only occasionally do they approach the harsher textures explored on 2001's Things We Lost in the Fire; but the gentleness and solemnity that worked on Christmas can prove rather soporific at this length. Still, a likeable enough set, in small doses.

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