As we stand listening to Alan Sparhawk (one of the members of Low) for the first time, we stupidly murmur to ourselves that it’s him and his distinctive voice, that voice that we know so well, in front of us. This presence stupefies us. What is most touching in Alan’s case is the conviction of his voice, both soft and unshakeable, which cradles us to a far off place. He sings and it speaks. It sounds stupid to say, but folk is just that: a wandering voice that cradles and soothes.
One of the pleasures of these Take Away Shows is to find out whether or not the song will move like air. It’s always a surprise to determine whether the music will shift with the space. What’s going to happen when we hit this bend in the staircase or the courtyard? How’s it going to sound as the camera comes down from above or takes its perch in a tree? When the microphone falls, or some random guy flagrantly sabotages the whole thing, will the voice still push on, unaffected, with the certainty that nothing can slow it down? A performance rarely happens this way, with such ease. But when it does, it feels miraculous. The song never slows down or falls, and the voice never catches or stalls.
The troubling part of this story is that these videos are not at all what I expected. What I saw while filming is far different from what the footage tells. In the moment, it was completely different, everything so simple and seamless. While listening to Alan sing calmly, I captured everything that moved, like some sort of sponge. There were memorable moments, like Alan bathed in a ray of sunlight, or a striking silence in the song “Murderer”. And I caught them all. But what I found in the videos is two sets of images that seem to have no resemblance to what I remember actually happening. By themselves, they seem to be just two events, or two frozen segments of time. I don’t hear the voice I remember. This could bother me, but I find it rather cool. This tells me that, apart from our memories, we can make poetry. Pure and uncut.
Text by Matthieu Chéreau , translated by Matt Evans