Over the years, some record labels attain a status where fans are happy to buy a record on trust, simply because it has that company’s endorsement: Motown, Creation, 4AD, Stax, ZTT for instance – and surely now, Bella Union. Lowly are recent recruits to ex-Cocteau Twins‘ bassist Simon Raymonde’s roster (they signed a couple of years ago), and the good news is that they are more than worth a punt.
Heba is the debut album from the Danish quintet, and is a lush and confident collection. As soon as opener ‘Still Life’ gently eases the album into life, it is clear that Lowly are onto something special; vintage-sounding synths, a beautifully simple guitar riff and even a touch of operatic backing vocals (courtesy of Anna Maria Wierød) carry the song along. Vocalists Nanna Schannong and Soffie Viemose share singing duties and have equally wonderful voices. ‘Still Life’ stylistically sits somewhere between Stina Nordenstam and Lower Dens, it is a quite breathtaking start to proceedings.
Last year’s single ‘Deer Eyes’ comes next and is similarly luxurious, the vocals high in the mix while the minimal backing always has just enough to hook the listener in – no sound is wasted, no instrument over-used. The band have been open with their admiration of Radiohead, and perhaps In Rainbows is a reasonable reference point – the aesthetic of something like ‘Nude’ is roughly on the same lines as Heba.
The band have described their music as ‘noise-pop and everything in between’, but the album is lighter to the touch than maybe that suggests – the band co-produced the record with Efterklang‘s soundman Anders Boll, and between them create a dreamy and uncluttered soundscape.
The drumless ‘Pommerate’ floats by and says what it came to say in less than two minutes, while penultimate track ‘Word’ is one of the most affecting on the record, building gently to a crescendo before giving way to the brief finale, the self-deprecatingly entitled ‘Not So Great After All’, which ebbs away and gives the impression of slowly losing consciousness as it disappears over the horizon.
Elsewhere on the album, ‘Look At The Sun’ is a gorgeously understated gem, while ‘Mornings’ has a gently battering (if there is such a thing!) percussive feel that sits just below the surface and is seemingly happy not to fight against the synth stabs and otherworldly chorused guitar sounds.
Lowly have delivered a focussed and really nicely sequenced record that perfects that knack of sounding like it isn’t trying too hard. Heba is another worthy addition to the Bella Union catalogue.
Heba is released by Bella Union in 10th February 2017.