Low, The Curtain Hits The Cast
from CMJ Issue 486, 12 August 1996.
The Curtain Hits The Cast reaffirms Low's position as the most deliberate and minimalist member of the slow rock crop; each track on The Curtain.. takes shape like a crystalline form coalescing on a billion-year-old rock. Indeed, movement comes slowly and in small doses in Low's songs, but each subtle shift is equivalent to a sea change in form and structure. Every murmur from the members of this Minnesotan trio has the ability to completely recast the emotional content of a song, although, to be honest, the group deals almost exclusively in shades of melancholy. When percussionist/vocalist Mimi Parker's voice sinks on the final repeated refrain of "Standby," leaving guitarist/vocalist Alan Sparhawk alone on the note, you'll realize that it's no longer worth standing by, because the situation is near hopeless. "Lust" casts Low as an accusing lover, as the vocalists intone at a snail's pace, "Are you finding answers?/Are you speaking in tongues?/Are you OBL filled with anger?/Are you filled with lust?," ending the song with a final blow, asking, "Would it hurt to trust?" Within Low's songs each strum and strike is a broad stroke meant to represent more than just the sound they generate. Despite the fragility and languid pace, however, Low at its heart understands how pop structures work these are insistent rock songs, not just drawn-out experimental sounds parading around in a rock band disguise. Besides, after taking a few moments to get acclimated to Low's leisurely tempos, you'll barely notice that minutes have passed with nary a vocal whimper or traditional pop hook. Downshift to Low's speed on "Over The Ocean," "Anon" and, if you have the time, the epic 14-plus-minute "Do You Know How To Waltz?"
- ALEC BEMIS: CMJ New Music Report Issue: 486 - Aug 12, 1996