Low, Secret Name [Kranky]
In 1994, Low began their career with the debut release,
I Could Live In Hope. Influenced by '80s new wave, guitarist
Alan Sparhawk, drummer and wife Mimi Parker and bass player Zak
Sally - who came into the picture a year later - were convinced
that less is better. Equipped with a guitar, a bass, and a drum
kit only consisting of a bass drum, snare and cymbal, they patiently
created sparsely rich textured soundscapes.
By 1995, their pop-minimalist sound surfaced with Long
Division. The collection of soberly, cold songs caught the
fascination of many musicians, as well as critics alike. People
were so impressed that reviewers would characterize any slow,
brooding band to Long Division. Their following attempt, Curtain
Hits the Cast, did not gain as much recognition, but now the
Minnesota trio may set some new standards with Secret Name.
A first for the Chicago label Kranky, Secret Name is a
marvelous diary carefully documenting the sights and sounds of the
Midwest. The band packed their bags and drove to Windy City to record
with indie-guru Steve Albini (Big Black, Rapeman).
With Secret Name, the band mildly ventures into new
territory with the addition of a string section, timpani and pianos
adding more layering to the music. Donít worry though, the music is
still slow as molasses with fainting harmonies and cloudy melodies.
The album begins with Parker kicking out a beat that would
make a Native American burial ground cry while Sparhawk nervously
sings, 'I remember graduation.' Songs like "Starfire" provides more
warmth, but the breeze is still there blowing in your hair. And it's
a matter of time, before the temperature drops with the sad mood of
"Sour." The album fluctuates, but the climactic moment is with
"2-Step." Harking back to the Long Division days, the music is
thick as each note is carefully plucked. Both Sparhawk and Parker
trade lyrics coming together to whispfully sing, '2-step around the
room, kneel down, unwound.' On the surface, this may be the most
depressing band in the music business, but look more closely and
Sparhawk and Parker crafts their lyrics like a photographer tells
a story documenting everyday life in the heart of the American
dream. What Garrison Keiler does to folk music, Low does to minimalism.
- Andrew Duncan