When it came time to record their ninth studio album, slow-core trio Low opted for a return to Sacred Heart Studio, a converted Catholic church in the band’s hometown of Duluth, where they recorded “Trust,” their sixth album, in the early 2000s.
The sense of comfort that the long-running group — anchored as always by the husband-wife duo of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker — felt within the familiar environs echoes all over the intimate “C’mon” (Sub Pop). The band brings those new songs to the Majestic Theatre for a show on Wednesday, April 20.
At times, listening to the album sounds like eavesdropping on a hushed conversation between the couple, whose otherworldly voices intertwine as naturally as ivy growing around lattice. Witness this exchange: After Sparhawk lapses into self-pity on the moody “Done,” Parker answers with “Especially Me,” chiding him playfully as she sings, “Cry me a river …”
“I think it’s just another of those moments where the song comes out, and then after the fact you’re like, ‘That’s interesting, isn’t it?’ ” said Parker in a recent phone interview. “We are opposing in some ways. He is a certain way. I am a certain way. Then hopefully there is a balance.”
There’s certainly more balance here than on the band’s previous album, the comparatively cool “Drums and Guns,” released in 2007. Where that album built around the clinical pulse of programmed drums and violent, war-torn imagery (the record includes songs like “Murderer,” “Violent Past” and “Your Poison”), “C’mon” builds to the mantra-like “Nothing But Heart,” an eight-minute slow-burner every bit as warming as its title would suggest.
“I think the whole approach was warm and fuzzy,” Parker said. “There were more electronic elements on ‘Drums and Guns.’ With this one we wanted to make the songs big and lush and nice. I think it was just more organic in feeling.”
That’s not to say “C’mon” doesn’t have its darker moments as well. Lullaby-ish opener “Try To Sleep” could double as a deathbed lament (“You try to sleep/But you never wake up”), while the album-closing “Something’s Turning Over” incorporates both a children’s choir (aww) and lyrics about being murdered in your sleep (yikes).
Despite the fact that Sacred Heart Studio still looks like a church — the confessionals remain intact and the walls are lined with enormous stained-glass windows — Parker said the group had no qualms about cutting loose there. “It’s not the most reverent situation,” she said. “We’re banging on drums pretty loud.”
The pair also utilized the church’s old pipe organ to color “Nothing But Heart” with celestial tones and invited their own kids to guest alongside the children’s choir on a pair of tunes. “Usually they don’t listen to our music,” she said. “But with this one they’re excited to try and hear themselves in the mix.”
Still, Sparhawk’s contributions prevent things from becoming overly cheery. Said Parker of her partner’s darker side: “He’s working out some issues, for sure.”
At times, his guitar sounds downright surly, the singer laying down jagged, menacing riffs that play counterpoint to those more serene moments. In that sense, the music does, in at least some way, reflect the always-evolving relationship between Sparhawk and Parker.
“Especially when touring comes along, we really need to try to see each other in a different way sometimes. But, you know, it’s a process and we’re moving in the right direction,” said Parker of the dynamic. “I think music is an amazing language, and sometimes it’s just what we need in this relationship. We can be having a difficult moment, but even getting onstage and playing together can be a cathartic experience.”