ARTIST: DAVID BOWIE
LABEL (Year): RCA (1977)
FOR FANS OF: KRAFTWERK, BRIAN ENO, MAGAZINE, JOHN CALE
Words by Stef Fiorendi
David Bowie: an undeniably multifaceted and restless artist. Low is the white duke’s eleventh studio album and first release of what became known as the ‘Berlin Trilogy’ (Low, Heroes and Lodger). It shows evidence of remarkable experimentalism - though already existent in his previous album Station to Station - mixing krautrock, rhythm’n’blues and electronic elements, reaching one of the highest points of inspiration and intensity in the artist’s long and varied career.
The album represents a breakthrough in Bowie’s artistic production; even the title is indicative of a change in attitude and lifestyle. Low is the struggle that Bowie faced while he was trying to kick his cocaine addiction and impeccably portrays his bipolar and erratic figure. Written entirely in a mansion in France and mixed in a studio in West Berlin, the album is divided into two sides. The first part is characterised by brief and angular songs, jagged guitars, layered vocals and snappy synths, in a typical avant-pop way. ‘Sound and Vision’ and ‘Be My Wife’ demonstrate a rather accessible sound with shimmering guitars and catchy hooks.
The second section of the album is where the innovative production work of Tony Visconti and the collaborative synergy of Bowie and Brian Eno become more evident. Long, suggestive instrumental songs abound, filled with atmospheric suspense and eerie soundscapes. In ‘Warszawa’, Bowie’s vocals recall the Balkan languages, while ‘Subterraneans’ closes the album with a dark and desolated sax line, evoking the pain of a fractured city such as Berlin, while also probably metaphor for Bowie’s state of mind at the time.
Overall the album is driven by dissonant synths and avant-garde electronic sounds, that make this work one of the most dense and challenging endeavours that Bowie has ever accomplished.
Good soundtrack for one of those hectic days in which you end on your bed troubled by overwhelming thoughts. In that case, I suggest, listen backwards.