The Low Anthem Smart Flesh on LP
With its dreamy, rustic take on the idea of Americana, the Low Anthem's Smart Flesh builds on the promise of the group's universally praised 2008 Nonesuch Records debut, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. As the Washington Post has put it, "The Low Anthem isn't the first bunch of indie rockers to experiment with older string-band instruments and echoes of the songs of pre-1940 rural America. But no one has done it better than this Rhode Island trio... That's because very few bands have paid so much attention to detail, or to beauty."
To record Charlie Darwin, the three original band members; Jocie Adams, Ben Knox Miller, and Jeff Prystowsky took over a Block Island cabin in the dead of winter. To record Smart Flesh, the group now expanded to a quartet with the addition of drummer Mat Davidson, found a former pasta factory in Central Falls, Rhode Island, a cavernous loft space that became crucial to the shape of the album. Says vocalist Miller, "We knew right away when we stepped into the factory that the space was really the main instrument for the whole record. The resonance was chilling. We were able to experiment with new recording techniques to capture the sound at different distances. Mics 100-200 feet away caught the sound barreling across the room." Additional tracks were recorded in a garage that had previously been home to a reptile breeder, another unconventional studio space that the quartet dubbed "the gator pit."
The group self-produced Smart Flesh, bringing in Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk, M. Ward) to mix the Pasta Sauce sessions and Jesse Lauter (Elvis Perkins, April Smith) to engineer. Instrumentation included jaw harp, musical saw, stylophone, oversized drum kits, and three antique pump organs that the band had found and restored. The exquisitely crafted, achingly spare arrangements at times recall the early recordings of Leonard Cohen, and Miller's voice, on a track like "Burn," displays a similarly gruff yet plaintive timbre. The deeply melancholic mood the group favors, starting with a spellbindingly slow-motion rendering of George Carter's 1920's era "Ghost Woman Blues," will appeal to fans of the backwoods musings of Bon Iver or the lovelorn southern balladry of the Avett Brothers, with whom The Low Anthem has toured.
The Low Anthem Smart Flesh Track Listing:
1. Ghost Woman Blues
2. Apothecary Love
3. Boeing 737
4. Love And Altar
5. Matter Of Time
8. Hey, All You Hippies!
9. I'll Take Out Your Ashes
10. Golden Cattle
11. Smart Flesh