If the geographical location that the band call home and the music that they generate is a perfect fit, does it enhance your experience when listening to them? Perhaps it’s just our stereotyping of people from cities and countries that clouds our view, but would The Beatles have been the same if they’d come from Southampton, instead of that well-known northern city of chipper, fast and loose Scousers? Would Radiohead seem the same if they were associated with Birmingham, instead of the quaint and intellectual city of Oxford? Does the home of the band influence the music? With today’s new solo artist we seem to have on show the effect that an environment can have on their output.
Low Roar is the brand new project from a remarkable song writer, Ryan Karazija, who used to call San Francisco, California home. Whilst in the US you may have known him as the singer for the band Audrye Sessions, who managed the mighty task of giving over their signatures to the Sony BMG sub-label, Black Seal. They had attempts at EPs and albums, but seemed to receive mixed reviews at best, eventually causing Ryan to re-assess. He made the brave decision to up sticks and move to Reykjavik, Iceland, and it’s here that his sound seems to have discovered it’s Cinderella moment – this new shoe is a perfect fit.
Maybe it’s the harsh, long winters, or the rocky vistas, or the spring waters, but something rather incredible has infused into his new music. Now recording as Low Roar and setting up for the release of his self-titled debut album – out on Tonequake Records on November 1st – which introduces us to an artist that’s searched his soul and found something so beautiful it simply has to be held up for the world to see. There’s a thousand pretenders that think they can write this kind of music because they believe that they’re clever and introverted, but most of them don’t have the depth of talent required, normally producing bland and self-absorbed results, but this guy is different. We haven’t heard this style of emotional, personal songcraft delivered to these exceptional standards since Bright Eyes.
Just like fellow Icelanders, Sigur Ros, he matches timelessness with the cinematic, beauty and uplift with pain and harrowing melody. His vocals slip over the key changes and play your heartstrings like a royal quartet, much in the same way Thom Yorke did in Numb or Street Spirit (Fade Out). Ryan is an expert in creating fluid songs, full of tears that well up as the tracks build, before the flood gates open. By the end of the album you will feel in an utterly different emotional place from where you started. Only a lobotomy could hold back the effect that this masterful piece of work has on your emotions. At no point does the album feel lethargic or pedestrian, rather it’s more intelligent and wide open. This is music’s equivalent of a snowflake – ice cold and drifting alone, but delicate, momentary and designed to perfection.
As the winter months kick in this album will feel like it’s soundtracking the changing seasons. Whether it’s the folk structures found in the tune, Friends Make Garbage, Good Friends Take It Out, or the strings and rhythms that go on one long crescendo in Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, his skill and ability pulses throughout the LP. What seems on the surface like a bleak, melancholic album turns out to be something of a tale of hope, as what we might just see occurring here is a man that’s finally discovered his masterpiece by moving to a country that’s allowed some serious introspection. The outside has allowed him to discover what was inside all along. After all, the one thing that’s buried deep inside us all, out of view, is our hearts. This discovery shouldn’t depict Iceland as a dark, rocky, icy, remote outcrop, but actually as a place where the people are warmer than you think. Perhaps it’s not the external environment that matters, but actually what is found inside that truly counts. (MB)
LOW ROAR – TONIGHT, TONIGHT, TONIGHT
LOW ROAR – PUZZLE
LOW ROAR – IT’S JUST HABIT