The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh – review

(Bella Union)

If the Low Anthem had recorded Smart Flesh in a conventional studio, it might not have sounded like much. At heart this is a dustily traditional collection of folk songs, their straightforward rhythms and plain instrumentation intermittently embellished with musical saw and pump organ, their lyrics of loss, redemption and death occasionally startling, with such vivid imagery as that of "a Bible in a bath of formaldehyde". But the Rhode Island quartet didn't record it in a conventional studio: they holed up in a disused factory, whose cavernous architecture makes every note thrum as though transmitted to the living world from some eerie limbo inhabited by spirits and shadows. The effect is as bewitching as it is chilling, steeping Ghost Woman Blues and Wire in melancholy, and giving the album the atmospheric cohesion that its predecessor, 2009's Oh My God, Charlie Darwin, seemed to lack.


Maddy Costa

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

The Low Anthem: Smart Flesh – review
Recording in an old factory works wonders for the hushed folk-rock act, writes Killian Fox

Killian Fox

20, Feb, 2011 @12:05 AM

Kassidy: Hope St – review
Hold on to your kaftans, it's the Glaswegian Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. By Michael Hann

Michael Hann

17, Mar, 2011 @11:59 PM

Ryan Adams: Ashes & Fire – review
Ryan Adams's talent comes sharply back into focus on this stripped-back album, says Michael Hann

Michael Hann

06, Oct, 2011 @8:59 PM

CD: Giant Sand, Provisions

Singer Howe Gelb has become synonymous with Americana and the sound of the Arizona desert

Dave Simpson

05, Sep, 2008 @11:26 AM

Other Lives: Tamer Animals – review
Dave Simpson is transported by sublime Americana from these majestic Oklahomans

Dave Simpson

01, Sep, 2011 @8:59 PM

Dan Mangan: Oh Fortune – review

Maddy Costa celebrates Dan Mangan's fleetness of expression and glowing melodies

Maddy Costa

01, Dec, 2011 @11:00 PM

CD: Calexico, Carried To Dust

They cast a critical eye over their homeland, but from the storytelling angle of a striking writer who uses his free time to travel around the US

Dave Simpson

05, Sep, 2008 @11:22 AM

The War on Drugs: Slave Ambient – review
Michael Hann is bowled over by a classic rock/Krautrock crossover from Philadelphia

Michael Hann

22, Dec, 2011 @11:40 PM

Drive-By Truckers: Go-Go Boots - review
Another album, another dose of Southern life from Drive-By Truckers. They still sound good to Michael Hann

Michael Hann

10, Feb, 2011 @11:20 PM

Alela Diane: Alela Diane & Wild Divine - review
Beefing up her band has left Alela Diane teetering on the brink of blandness, fears Betty Clarke

Betty Clarke

31, Mar, 2011 @9:20 PM