Low is a kaleidoscope in which Bowie's obsessions and traits explode into fragments and reform in a new pattern. Sonically, it is hugely adventurous: combining a driving R&B rhythm section with the experimental soundscapes of Brian Eno, it evolves a whole new musical language. Thematically, it's the sound of a man struggling to get well. Bowie has often talked about his fear of insanity. Despite - or because of - this, he drugged himself into a state that looked very much like schizophrenia, and then recorded an album that structurally reflected the illness.
Hugo Wilcken is Paris-based, Australian-born writer and translator. His first novel, The Execution, was published to critical acclaim by HarperCollins in 2002. His next, Colony, was published in 2006.
33 1/3 is a new series of short books about critically acclaimed and much-loved albums of the last 40 years. Focusing on one album rather than an artist's entire output, the books dispense with the standard biographical background that fans know already, and cut to the heart of the music on each album. The authors provide fresh, original perspectives - often through their access to and relationships with the key figures involved in the recording of these albums. By turns obsessive, passionate, creative, and informed, the books in this series demonstrate many different ways of writing about music. (A task which can be, as Elvis Costello famously observed, as tricky as dancing about architecture.) What binds this series together, and what brings it to life, is that all of the authors - musicians, scholars, and writers - are deeply in love with the album they have chosen.
Certain albums could only happen in a certain place and time, with the right people, melding influences, techniques, styles, and attitudes. David Bowie's Low is such an album and Hugo Wilcken ties these elements together, contextualizing the album in a way that adds to the rich experience of the retro-futuristic music. Wilcken discusses Bowie's fleeing the drug excesses of LA to Berlin and the lively krautrock scene that was burgeoning there, his work with producer Tony Visconti and collaborator Brian Eno, and the sometimes revelatory and sometimes psychotic or paranoid states of mind that went into making the album. Accomplished voice actor Victor Bevine gives a cool and confident performance of the material, bringing clarity where even Bowie's memory contradicts and falters.
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