Low, Secret Name
Low: Alan Sparhawk (vocals, guitar, piano); Mimi Parker (vocals, percussion); Zak Sally (bass, optigan).
The Triple A Strings: Ida Pearle (violin); Tresa Ellickson (viola); Kera (cello).
On Low's fifth album (the fourth was a European-only live album), the band moved away from the fuzzy sound of its previous few releases and re-introduced some of the brittleness of earlier records. Many of the tracks also feature auditory experimentation. Garbled announcements, scratchy backing tracks, an instrument called an opitgan, and strings all find a place here. As the band moved into more experimental territory, it fit better than ever onto the indie label Kranky's roster, alongside Magnog, Jessamine, and the like.
"Starfire" is the band's most rock & roll-sounding song, though its inspiration is more Galaxie 500 than Led Zeppelin. The shimmering "Missouri" plays on the pun of "Missouri/misery." The monumentally aggressive "Don't Understand" features the most brutal drumming to be found on a Low record. Meanwhile, songs like "Immune" actually sound cheerful! The album also contains a very different version of "Will the Night," which originally appeared on the SONGS FOR A DEAD PILOT EP. SECRET NAME is the most experimental and unpredictable Low record and, ultimately, the band's most rewarding.
New Musical Express (5/1/99, p.40) - "...Just when it seemed that Minnesota melancholics Low couldn't get any further down, they returned with a fifth album of exquisite hush and sorrow..."
Q Magazine (7/99, p.120) - 4 stars (out of 5) - "...eerily minimal....This latest set is quite superb, their most fully realised work to date..."