The Salt Doll Went To Measure The Depths Of The Sea, is the name of the new album from The Low Anthem. The collection of twelve tracks follows a descent through contrasting scenes and unusual sounds. We travel through different cross-currents, down through cooler waters. Ultimately, we experience a sense of deep, murky, solitude. But there’s also something else to discover.
Fans of the band will revel in the usual-unusual approach to placing instruments together. Musically, The Salt Doll Went To Measure The Depths Of The Sea, explores an approach to sound that band-founders Ben Knox Miller and Jeff Prystowsky have pursued before. Here, the effect of placing odd percussive glitches over odd percussive glitches produces a deeply pleasing sedimentary landscape. Like sand, this stuff can be sharp, or soft, depending on how you move across it.
Dreamy melodic work is offered by whispered vocals, nylon-string guitars, and the odd chimes of something distant in the mix. We’re in the business of building a dream from memory, and so facts are neither straight, nor all that significant. What’s key here is the emotive weight at the center of gravity.
The sea is used as a metaphor, of course. But then, sometimes the sea is just the sea. Within the water all impulses are smaller than the fluid that conducts their movement. We move closer to clarity, but sometimes clarity offers a new way of asking familiar questions. Flora and fauna are deployed across song titles. The subaquatic communication between things is a constant source of wonder. “The Krill Whistle Their Fight Song” is an oddly quiet, pleasingly descriptive image of the impossible. The narrator moves perspective to inhabit different aspects of the landscape. A weird kind of universal consciousness is experienced. You’ll not have heard a sequence of songs that attempt, and accomplish, this kind of beauty in quite some time.
Across this album, we’re spared details. Lyrics are poetic, and lead the mind to look in certain directions, but they never attempt to define the scale of the journey. No modern music ever really won an award for ‘best imagist expression’ and yet, this album trades only in this currency. “Final Transmission From The Diving Umbrella”, in title alone, conjures a magic realism that captures something of the spirit of the piece.
Perhaps this album has been shaped by a traffic accident which almost killed the band as they drew near to the end of promoting their previous album, eyeland. The proximity of death, and the large, shapelessness of the unknown saturates this collection. Somehow, there’s a calm in all of this. A letting go, and acceptance of the process – which may be cyclical.
“I Give My Body Back”, the first single from the album, explains a sense of surrender, and the portion of ourselves that has never really been separate from ‘all of this’. Maybe the idea we have of individuality is no more than just that; an idea. Maybe we’re not living outside of anything. We are all in a process of borrowing definition from the things that we fall through. “Walking on my heels now / the water took my toes” is a line that doesn’t make much literal sense. It’s all a bit topsy-turvy. The magic is unreal.
There are few albums like The Salt Doll Went Down To Measure The Depths Of The Sea. This album is both timely and timeless. It’s rooted in folk, but it’s filled with glitched flowers and electronic beats. Lyrically, it achieves poetry. It is a piece of art that reflects its subject, relaying content with form. It is rare without being precious. You know those albums that somehow live with you forever, quietly existing in your downtime when you need to gather it all in? This is one of those albums. It’s a stunning piece of work. Seriously.
HURRY – LISTEN – THE LOW ANTHEM