Low, Secret Name (Kranky)

Posted December 31st, 1998 by admin

Secret Name
By: Eric G.

Low’s music presents simple, subtle gestures in which each note impacts the listener with maximum effect. There are no solos. No extraneous sounds. Everything here is essential- it’s minimalism to the extreme. The harmonies between Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker are delicate yet majestic, awash in the reverb of Sparhawk’s sparing guitar. The few words actually sung hang heavily on your heart like a final breath. It’s that solemn. It’s even more affecting live, bordering on utter pretentiousness, but Spearhawk’s low-key sense of humor between songs deflates some of the stuffiness.

This is Low’s fourth album, and they team up once again with Steve Albini for the recording. Albini treats each song like a wall of sound, but it’s a barrage of minimalism. The beats per minute never even reach a moderate pace. True to his style, Albini tends to bury the vocals, but, occasionally, their volume is disconcerting as on “Starfire” or “Immune.” Some of the band’s grand impact is lost on record, however. Low’s music is best represented in a live setting, where you can feel the sustain of the notes. Plus, you can actually hear the vocals.

Imagine Simon And Garfunkle on barbiturates or Galaxy 500 even slower with a little Neil Young thrown into the trance-like dissonance- then you might get a sense of what Low is like. Secret Name is the best thing I’ve heard from this trio. The songs have an inherently ‘classic’ quality. “Starfire” builds on a simple melody that leads to a truly gorgeous harmonization between Sparhawk and Parker complete with the appropriate la la la’s. The band knows how to tug on your heart strings without laying it on too thick. “Two Step”, “Don’tUnderstand”, and “Immune” all wallow in the same stark, emotional reverie, but the vocals cut through the melancholy with an almost regal fervor. Secret Name will leave you weak in the knees.

Tags: review