Low stands as the pinnacle of Bowie’s trail-blazing, making music that informed post-punk, still several years away, and only fractionally dated almost forty years later. Joy Division, one of the most celebrated post-punk bands, went as far as to originally name themselves Warsaw after the opening track on the album’s second side. While the core team of Murray, Davis and Alomar are still in place from Station To Station, the production team of Bowie and Tony Visconti and guest keyboard player Brian Eno are most influential on the sound. The songs of Low are only a facet of the album’s appeal; its sonic innovations and its haunting atmospheres are equally, if not more, important. Low was recorded in Berlin, the first of Bowie and Eno’s Berlin Trilogy, and accordingly the influence of German bands like Neu! and Kraftwerk is apparent.
The record is divided into two distinct halves; the first side is made up of disjointed, fragmented songs, often minimalist, while the second side consists of four extended ambient instrumentals. Highlights from the first side include the bouncy, melodic ‘Sound and Vision’ and the accessible ‘Be My Wife’, but the most memorable is ‘Breaking Glass’, with the line “don’t look at the carpet/I drew something awful on it.” The instrumentals are surprisingly accessible, carefully constructed, while Bowie’s wordless vocals often bring an extra emotional dimension.
Low is yet another triumph in Bowie’s triumphant 1970s catalogue, covering more extreme territory than ever before, but still innately musical and accessible.