I was home this past weekend to visit my mother, a retired single woman who has had her own ups and downs in her career as a person. She isn’t musical, she isn’t artistic, but she has a sly wit and doesn’t take shit from anyone. In fact as we talked for a bit in her living room and I fed treats to her dog, a schnauzer who is very protective of her and would have ripped my arm off had my mother not given the dog the look that says “it’s okay if he gives me a hug goodbye” and we talked about my life and the neighborhood where I live.
Somehow the homeless people who live beneath the underpass not far from my apartment entered the conversation and my mother said, “oh that’s so sad.” And it is sad. But it’s also a fact of life. I think about it when I get sad. I’m of the type that tries to put things in perspective. A lot of people have it bad and a lot of people have it worse. So where does it end?
I often wonder then, being me, what kind of art these people who live under the underpass would make. Art comes from one’s surroundings. What would they paint if they could? What would they sing about I wonder?
Half a world away from here, in South Africa, lives the Johannesburg musician and visual artist Givan Lötz. His music is ethereal and dark. It at once feels depressing, beautiful and lethargic. It also sounds a lot like the Duluth slowcore band Low, a band I have been a fan of going on twenty years now. The associations for me began with the slow and sludgy “Speak” the second track from Lötz’s third record MAW. He opens the song with soft picked guitar and soon after his reverb laced emerge. There is a stillness and stoic quality to the song. The song eventually picks up energy but almost feels exhausted in a some way.
These similarities continue on the hauntingly slow and melodic piano and dark effects of “The Last One.” “The Last One” contains a more upbeat and catchy vocal melody. Next comes the equally ethereal and hauntingly sad “Shame.” "Speak" melds white noise with pads as his vocals peak through the top.
Things get a little more experimental on the guitar and synthetically gauzy “Tender,” which is followed by the equally ambient “The Wind.” There comes a little more distinction on “Sea,” but not very much. “Sea,” is depressingly Gregorian and gets a lift from a bit of ‘80s inspired Cure. He closes with a sprawling and slow song entitled "Watchtower"
From the viewpoint of a guy who likes low-fi and haunting melodies I can see what Lötz is trying to do. That being said there isn't much emotional diversity to MAW. Each track rings with a somber vibe. You definitely have to be in a certain kind of mood to fully appreciate MAW for what it is.
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