The digit 0, as a representation of nothing, can be frightening. To have earned nothing or to have nothing left are gut-wrenching notions, all contained within the infinite expanse of that bleak oval. But conceptually, crucially, it is also the starting blocks; the habituated point of return for dusting off and trying again, a reprieve for should you ever blindly jump the gun. It doesn’t heal grazed skin nor bruised ego, but that opportunity to start over is a comfort as well as an incentive, and Low Roar seems keen to make that regression; to fall back to point zero with and despite his welts and missteps.
With that asylum afforded to him, Ryan Karazija muses tolerantly, starting again as he means to go on. ‘Breathe In’ is a gradual, amiable introduction; the movement of air as a cleansing coolant, the calmest response to mounting adversities. In a falsetto just as lofty, he coos “Time, it creeps and crawls, it reels me in, sinks its rusty hooks in my skin – I breathe in”, and it already feels like a resounding victory, humble in its defiance. The manner in which the strings billow and abate is mindful of a pair of lungs inhaling as much as they’re able, and following a wispy outro, they balloon again and double in capacity to bestow upon Karazija a plentiful supply of crisp, pure air. He retakes his first step.
What follows is a studious reflection of choices, mistakes and compromises that Karazija has made, each individually wrapped in pastel-coloured tissue paper with bitter-sweet lyrical extracts entangled around them. Indistinct nuances pepper them, almost like handwritten notes on the reverse side of a polaroid, to date and to contextualise. ‘Easy Way Out’ has a repeating theremin-esque waul as a vaguely vocalised regret, and ‘I’ll Keep Coming’ professes its resolve with rumbling bass interjections that carry the track like a lift hill. High-pitched synth horns act as stilts on ‘Phantoms’, whilst metallic ticks and twangs inject a disjointing edge to ‘Vampires On My Fridge’. On ‘Nobody Loves Me Like You’, it’s the frowning melodies that hold its character – as Karazija inwardly laments “Think of what you’re saying before you speak, these days I could go without enemies” you can actually hear the expression on his face changing.
It’s that track in particular that surmises the blood flow of 0. It floats and glides on the current of a sigh, unobtrusive and bereft of artificial drama, a modest attempt to re-tie a frayed length of string. It ends, fading to complete silence, but is stirred back to life by earthy organ and resilient if prudent thumbed bass notes – all so that Karazija may continue to trill “Nobody loves me like you…” a while longer. It’s as if he’s clutching onto the memory of a jilted friend and lover in case he should ever forget. And if you’re not in the hopeless-romantic frame of mind it might come across as superfluous, but as he hums with tightly-closed eyelids on the laid-bare ‘Dreamer’, “wherever the wind blows, that’s where I’m headed”. These tracks prolong themselves because contained within them are captured moments and feelings extracted from the fragile mind that they hold together.
Imperatively, 0 is cyclical too, in a way that reinforces a sense of identity and stitches past, present and future. The many instances of vocal layering and pitch-altering could easily be seen as merely filling space, but rather they feel like past iterations of Karazija as he sings atop himself; because he’s been here before and he has the wounds to show for it. Attesting to this, held in 0’s drawl is an air of indecision and backtracking: The rugged determination of the line “Waiting for my worth, seen but never heard, buried underground but I’ll keep coming” is later directly counteracted by “Time’ll make the lovely ugly, so I’m leaving”. What’s more, among ‘Dreamer’ and the brief hiatus of ‘In The Morning’ seems to lie the ghostly remnants of ‘Give Up’ from Low Roar’s debut – whether intentional or not, it’s a touching reminder of his roots.
On the back of quiet, laboured contemplation, Low Roar has exhaled a remarkably poignant passage through his self; at times timid, at others brash, the rest an endearing amalgamation of the two. And once it passes, nothing is really solved or attained with any certainty. No matter the poor decision made or the untimely words spoken, Karazija falls back to where he started – but the solace lies in that he does have a place to fall back to.