Drone Strike

alanToday a friend of mine (who I didn’t know was a Low fan) posted a link that has had me smiling all day.

I had not heard this news but it was like candy to my reading eyes.  At this weekend’s Rock The Garden music festival in Minnesota, five indie bands were gathered together to play a long evening of rock ‘n roll.  Among the bands invited were Minnesota’s own Low, the very band that inspired this website (including the name).

The crowd had just been rained on so much that some were literally standing in ankle-deep water, and as Low took the stage certainly no one was expecting what would come next:  a 14-minute, droning, noisy, ambient tune from The Curtain Hits the Cast that was stretched out to fill their entire almost 30-minute set, followed by a simple three-word punchline.  “Drone, not drones.”

Apparently the majority of the audience weren’t amused (warning: foul language in that link).

Listen, folks, I understand that:

  1. the audience was filled with people that probably don’t know the iconoclastic side of Low and were looking for just a good night of music, and that
  2. this amounted to a preachy political statement at an inconvenient time, and that
  3. people paid a lot of money to see a night of what they hoped would be music, and
  4. Alan probably alienated some potential fans by making this statement.

That having been said, reading about it has reminded me once again what made Low so life-changing for me in the first place.  Here is a band who, from the beginning, wanted to be like nothing you’ve ever heard before.  They played quietly and slowly, with subtle harmonies and lots of ambience, to crowds that often sat while listening, and would often turn their volume down in hostile venues, during the era when Grunge was hitting the scene.  And they not only succeeded in doing it, but they’ve earned a throng of loyal fans, some of them quite high-profile, and managed to stay married and active in the church, while raising children, for over 20 years.  Perhaps Alan is right that it’s a fluke, but it gives me hope that I can stay true to myself and still find a niche in life.

Secondly, without getting too political here, the issue of drone strikes by the United States government is a concern to me, and it’s sensitive, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and interrupts my daily life and thoughts in a disturbing way.  Anyone that reads a lot about the subject should lose at least a little sleep over it.  It seems to me that Alan feels the same way, and what better way to bring awareness to the issue than point it out starkly to a crowd of art fans who might be receptive to the message?  And I’m noticing that this seems to be the overlooked point of Alan’s stunt.  So Alan seems to have miscalculated, perhaps, and a crowd of 5000 potential fans might have been the casualties of that bold risk, but I’m so glad he took it.  So glad.  Like, tonight when I put my kid to bed and he was brushing his teeth I was just beaming to myself the whole time, just thinking about it.

While many of the crowd probably wanted a refund on the money they spent on Low, I literally would have paid $100 to see it.  And you know, as far as I can tell, they seem to be the most-talked-about artist that played that show – and hundreds and possibly thousands of people are hearing the phrase “drone, not drones” for the first time (including me), so perhaps Alan knew what he was doing after all.

Drone Strike

Low/Sparhawk news clearinghouse: free music, new band, new albums, Wilco, Ben Gibbard, BYUtv, etc

Linescratchers has been sleeping, but low is the band that never sleep and Alan Sparhawk is the shark of the music world. If he stops writing and performing, he dies.

Alan Sparhawk collaborated with violinist Gaelynn Lea in a new band called Murder of Crows. They’re selling a download of their first EP, Imperfecta, for however much you’d like to pay (including $0) here. (Handmade CD version is available here.) Watch their segment on PBS show The Playlist here.

Low has announced that their new album, The Invisible Way, will be released in March (I’m not linking the album trailer because it’s ridiculous, perhaps as a comment on how ridiculous a trailer for an album is as a concept.) Jeff Tweedy from Wilco invited the band to his Chicago studio to record the record and he also took the producer’s helm.

In the meantime, the band has released their second pay-what-you-want digital EP, Plays Nice Places. It’s a collection of live tracks from their recent tour with Death Cab for Cutie. I can never forgive Ben Gibbard for slaughtering This Charming Man*, but it’s interesting to hear him take the vocals for “Words.” Download it using the widget on the right side of the page here.

Low was also featured in an episode of BYUtv’s surprisingly good new series, Audio-Files. Watch the whole 30 minute episode free here.

The Retribution Gospel Choir also remains active and will release their new album, 3, on Chaperone Records this January. “Q: How do you follow-up a four-song 7”? A: With a two-song full-length.” Sounds like they’re going to attempt replicating the live RGC experience this time. I’ve been lucky enough to see them once in DC and once in Santa Cruz, CA. If you haven’t seen them live yet, brace yourself. Prolific jazzy, Wilco-y guitarist Nels Cline joins on one song (half the album?)


*If you want to cover the Smiths, you bring your A game. You do not change the lyrics. Gibbard’s egregious offense:

This man said

“It’s gruesome

that someone so handsome should care.


This man said

“It’s crucial

that someone so handsome should care.”

No, a hundred times no. If there is one word that could ruin that song, he found it.

Low/Sparhawk news clearinghouse: free music, new band, new albums, Wilco, Ben Gibbard, BYUtv, etc

Australis releases third album, Sentient Genus

Long-time fans of Linescratchers will recognize our resident New Age/World/Ambient composer Australis right away.  We’ve featured Australis on our podcast and in an interview, and we’re pleased to announce that Australis has just released a much-anticipated third album:  Sentient Genus.  Click to check it out on iTunes or CDBaby.

Here is the track listing:
1. Fatum fugit
2. Passage
3. Vanishing point
4. Smile of a woman
5. Somewhen
6. Outposts of certainty
7. Man must explore
8. Sentient
9. Windborne touch
10. Human nature
11. The lunatic – part one
12. Little blue planet

Australis releases third album, Sentient Genus

Idiot Glee

Underground college radio fans all over the United States and Europe have been buzzing about the trippy, sparse “post-doo-wop” of Idiot Glee. Here in Lexington, Kentucky, the creative force behind Idiot Glee, James Friley, can often be seen poking his head into local shows and playing Al’s Bar, but he will soon be embarking on a tour of England and New York City in support of Idiot Glee. James grew up in the Church along with his brother, Ian Friley, who has graced our pages and podcast before as Good Morning Passenger, and found a measure of success with his previous band, bedtime. James admits he doesn’t obsess about God as much as he obsesses about music, and hasn’t been to Church in while (we’re working on that), but James still has to defend the Church in interviews and explain to people why he doesn’t drink. In this interview, James talks about his upcoming tour, his varied influences, and his relationship with the Church. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Idiot Glee”

Idiot Glee

Lori Cunningham – Unseen review

Recommended if you like: Delerium, Enigma

I was prepared to dislike Lori Cunningham; after all, I come from the 90’s brand of elite Goths—those of us who listen to Depeche Mode on our happy days and turn to Sopor Aeternus and the Ensemble of Shadows for some light dance music. Goths are snobby by nature, but Lori’s album “Unseen” caught me delightfully off-guard. It is an appealing, gratifying album, with a surprising depth and mastery of sound. Cunningham borrows from such classic ethereal artists as Delerium and Enigma, weaving seductive synth lines with ghostly, captivating lyrics that speak of loss, endless searches, and the kind of lingering pain that only comes from old wounds. Continue reading “Lori Cunningham – Unseen review”

Lori Cunningham – Unseen review

Lori Cunningham


With a distinctly modern blend of classically-trained vocals and edgy ambient electronica, Lori Cunningham has found an outlet for musical expression online. After years of vocal training, Lori decided to begin writing and recording original music in 2006. She has recorded an album, Unseen, and has had a guest performance on Jennifer Thomas’s The Lullaby Album. In addition to her solo music, Lori is working on a side project, Emeria, with British musician Adam Amos. Lori has answered a few of our questions, and she has a few things to say about being a full-time mother and composer, and her passion for vocal performance and songwriting.

She is also having a promotional giveaway of her album until June, and there is still time to enter to possibly get a free CD. Continue reading “Lori Cunningham”

Lori Cunningham