The narrative line of The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depth of the Sea has its origins in a folk tale of an experiential journey into the ocean, with the overarching idea that new experiences often involve some considerable cost.
So far, so traditional. Yet, there are some very novel touches on this mainly acoustic work, such as speckles of electronica that bring some engagingly irregular highlights to the soundscape and, as in the best examples in the folk tale tradition, have an eerily unsettling effect.
Songs are thematically–linked, rather than representing a clear chronology. The rather impressionistic ambience is well-suited to the tentative creation of a sense of new artistic purpose following the (thankfully only temporary) loss of founder member Jeff Prystowsky to the motor accident, along with the wrecking of a lot of equipment, in the early stages of the tour for the last album, Eyeland.
A clear contrast to that last release, the new disc’s qualities will be acknowledged by those who appreciate the intelligent compositional techniques that have long been characteristic of The Low Anthem. Tracks such as "Give My Body Back" call to mind some of the delightfully measured and understated craftsmanship on Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. This new record is certainly more immediately accessible than Eyeland, though equally accomplished in its well thought-through sequencing that brings out some subtle variations in pace and rhythm across the disc.
The complexities are fewer, but the band has resisted the temptation to recycle older tropes while it nevertheless still conveys a sense of a debt to tradition that has been a consistent feature over the years. It’s an admirable essay in re-invention, brought about by necessity certainly, but no less successful for all that.