by A.J. Duric
Listen carefully, for after almost three years of silence and the murmur that was Songs for a Dead Pilot (1997 EP), Minnesota’s indie-acclaimed Low brings us yet another quietly provocative album, Secret Name. Recorded with Steve Albini, husband-and-wife team guitarist-vocalist Alan Spearhawk and drummer-vocalist Mimi Parker have perfected the art of dramatic tension.
Having taken a cue from forgotten lo-fi kings Galaxie 500, Low started by stripping songs down to the sparest guitar, vocals and percussion imaginable. The sounds could be so wispy-delicate that a sneeze at one of their concerts would have the impact of a fighter jet roaring overhead. These songs are also as familiar as that warm, fuzzy, worn cardigan you simply cannot part with. Sometimes, though, it’s tempting to move on. …
Low’s developing orchestration, however, will draw you back every single time. The addition of a string section, timpani and piano augments the hypnotic spell Low so easily casts. More importantly, it takes the music to a different level of the minimalist drama the group has been enacting for years. In the process of carefully weaving in these new elements, like the subtle piano in the ethereal "Weight of Water" or "Lion/Lamb," Low does not lose focus on its primary objective: Creating music so entrancing and inviting in its lightness that it is almost painful to listen. Parker’s trembly, sighing vocals carry the weight of a single note until it’s as substantial as a déjà vu.
About as difficult to ignore as the unexpected hush of an early spring morning.