Album: The Low Anthem, Smart Flesh (Bella Union)

4.00

There's an eerie, otherworldly atmosphere to much of The Low Anthem's follow-up to 2009's enchanting Oh My God, Charlie Darwin that's due in large part to the circumstances of its recording, the band opting to use a deserted factory in Rhode Island in preference to a more soulless professional studio environment.

It has its advantages and disadvantages: rather than simply draining away into acoustic baffles, the vocal and piano of a track such as "Ghost Woman Factory" acquire a distinctive life of their own as they reverberate back off the walls, as if shadowed by their own ghosts; but elsewhere, on "Love and Altar", the high-register vocal harmonies are not recorded with adequate clarity to maximise their impact: the ghosts overpower their hosts, and it's hard to make out what's happening, between the feathery sibillance and the wan guitar setting.

It's when they move away from the Fleet Foxes-style hymnal harmonies, however, that the location comes into its own. On "Hey, All You Hippies!", the rough'n'ready guitar and organ have a rooted, grainy texture akin to The Band, while the cavernous reverb undoubtedly lends an extra weary poignancy to the crepuscular woodwind instrumental "Wire". Now expanded to a quartet, The Low Anthem's textural palette is broader than ever on Smart Flesh, with pump organ, lap steel guitar and lonesome harmonica bringing the country waltz "Apothecary Love" to vivid life, jew's harp and vibrato guitar instilling the interior tremors of the title-track, and clarinet and piano conjuring the funereal grace within the enigmatic "Golden Cattle", which seems to extend the doubting theological reflections of Oh My God, Charlie Darwin.

Elsewhere, love, death and regret stalk these songs like lost souls seeking their final rest – quite literally in the case of "I'll Take Out Your Ashes", where plaintive banjo accompanies a widower's apology to his wife's cremated remains: "It's a sad and prideful feeling/ Since I did not drive you to Michigan/ Scrambling eggs and bacon/ You're right here in the kitchen". Or perhaps it's just her memory he's addressing? The sad plunk of banjo also backdrops "Burn", along with wheezing organ, tambourine and the spooky whine of bowed saw, combining to create a lilting, self-lacerating fatalism that recalls Leonard Cohen's "Famous Blue Raincoat", the protagonist belatedly realising he's the source of his own emotional deprivation. In both these songs, he could be dealing with the aftermath of that earlier encounter with the phantom woman searching for a home in "Ghost Woman Factory".

The only mis-step on the album is "Boeing 737", a pounding, splashy stomp whose brash incoherence perhaps disguises a commentary on the twin towers attacks. It seems brutish and crude set alongside the rest of the album, which otherwise has the kind of stylistic and atmospheric unity that reminds one of what albums can offer that no other format can match.

DOWNLOAD THIS Ghost Woman Factory; Burn; Golden Cattle

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence