This site too slow? Try a mirror  --  Subscribe to the Guide  --  Find artist:
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

Low


Country of origin:

U.S.

Type of music generally:

Slow-core, almost ambient alternative pop

Status:

Most recent release, The Invisible Way (2013)

See also:

The Official Low Site

A Things We Lost in the Fire review in The War Against Silence

Comparisons:

Idaho, Red House Painters, Velour 100, Spain

Covers/own material:

Own, occasional covers

General comments:

Low is one of the bands that is in the forefront of the whole "slow-core" scene. slow-core is an arbitrary label (aren't all labels arbitrary?) stuck to a bunch of bands that don't really have all that much in common, other than that they play songs that are really mellow and slow. bands that have fallen into this category would be Idaho, Red House Painters, Velour 100, Spain, and of course, Low. very mellow, a distant second cousin to goth, but without the levels of pretentiousness, pancake makeup, and the obsession with all things black and death. Low certainly can write some fantastic songs, songs that make you want to turn all the lights off, sit in the dark and absorb each note, and the space between each note.
     lovely. check them out. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Comments about live performance:

They played a pretty short set, but hey, a little Low goes a long way. All in all, pretty good, but not overwhelming. (neal)

saw Low the other day, and it was fantastically depressing, yet marvellous nonetheless. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

Recommended first album:

Secret Name

Recordings:


I Could Live in Hope

Release info:

1994—Vernon Yard Recordings (Virgin)—01794 6 8005 2 5, Yard CD 5

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of slowcore alternative pop

Group members:

Al—guitar, vocals
Mimi—percussion, vocals
John—bass

Produced by:

Kramer

Comments:

A great debut album, and especially a knock-out song about how "Lazy" Sarah is. Kinda double-edged because of their slow-core sound. (Neile)

The first and in some senses the most upbeat Low cd. It's Low played at 45rpm as opposed to the rest of their work which seems slowed down to 33-1/3. Very pared-down with lots of space between the notes, but what makes this such a great first album is how well the minimalist guitar takes over, swirling and hypnotic. This is essentially a bass, guitar, drum band, nothing fancy. Slow-core at its finest. Standout tracks are "Words"—which has been covered by Halou among others—and "Lazy," where the harmony of husband and wife (Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Park) achieve a kind of rapture. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


Long Division

Release info:

1995—Vernon Yard Recordings (Virgin)—017046 8014 2 3 Yard CD14

Availability:

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of slowcore alternative pop

Group members:

Alan—guitar, vocals
Mimi—percussion, vocals
Zak—bass

Guest artists:

Kramer—mellotron on one track

Produced by:

Kramer

Comments:

I had read about Low a good while back and had always intended to check them out. When I saw Long Division on a couple best of '96 lists, I did. And I'm glad. This is just the stuff my soul needs right now. To say it's slow and quiet is an understatement. This band makes Slowdive sound like speed metal. The beats on Long Division are spaced so far apart, it's as if the drummer had to be reminded what to do. Softly strummed electric guitar feels like the breathing of a coma patient. Fragile male and female vocals range from a gentle murmur to quiet pleading. It's perfect music for overdosing on barbiturates. In many ways, Low reminds me of Rachel's, but less jazzy and impressionistic. (maeldun@i-2000.com)

Slow & dreamy with minimal instrumentation, they buck all trends and are quiet and yet don't sound like the Cowboy Junkies, even though that's the only band I can compare them too. I guess they're different because there's not the Junkies' folky, country feel to their music—this is quiet alternative rock. If that's possible, this is it. (Neile)

Their sophomore effort that meanders a bit. Perfect late-night-driving-through-a-desert landscape music. The way Low holds onto notes can open up new worlds for a listener who is willing to take the pace down and hear. A further step along Low's path of stripping their songs down almost to a stasis of silence, a still point of revelation. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


Transmission ep

Release info:

1996—Vernon Yard Recordings (Virgin)—01704-60016-2-5 Yard CD16

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of slowcore alternative pop

Produced by:

3 tracks produced by Kramer, 2 tracks produced by Steve Albini

Comments:

A five-song ep (+ a hidden instrumental) with a Joy Division and a Supreme Dicks cover.

Low take on the Joy Division song "Transmission" and—surprise—make it sound like any other Low song. All that frenetic energy of Joy Division burned away into the vacuum of Low-space. A not very interesting ep, mostly because the songs themselves sound so flat. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


the curtain hits the cast

Release info:

1996—Vernon Yard Recordings, 104 West 29th Street, New York, NY 10001, U.S.A.—VYD 18

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for fans of slowcore alternative pop

Group members:

Alan Sparhawk—guitars, vocals, keyboards
Mimi Parker—percussion, vocals
Zak Sally—bass keyboards

Guest artists:

Steve Fisk—keyboards on 3 tracks

Produced by:

Steve Fisk

Comments:

I still like them but they're slower than ever and have never quite produced anything as charming to my ear as "Lazy" their first album. (Neile)

The production by Seattle's Steve Fisk make this a more pleasing effort. Also helps that the songs themselves are more engaging. Their first forée into noise(?) "Do You Know Hot To Waltz?" is perhaps their most experimental and wide-ranging, building from a muted repeated riff to near cacophony. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


finally...ep

Release info:

1996—Vernon Yard Recordings—VYD 22

Availability:

Wide on release

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Low fans

Produced by:

Steve Fisk

Comments:

Songs recorded around the time of the curtain hits the cast. "Prisoner" is almost a jangly tone, off-kilter but as close to pop as Low ever gets. The final track, "Turning Over" harkens back to their first cd, faster (?)-paced and more jaded. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Songs for a Dead Pilot [ep]

Release info:

kranky, p.o. box 57843, chicago, il 60657, U.S.A.—kranky 021

Availability:

Recommended for Low fans only

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Mimi Parker—percussion, vocals
Zak Sally—bass
Alan Sparhawk—guitar, keyboards, vocals

Guest artists:

The Flag Day Strings:
     Jaron Childs—cello
     Cassandra Legge—cello
     Tresa Ellickson—viola
Chris Fereeman—keyboard on 1 track
Bethany Legge—baby on 1 track

Produced by:

Low

Comments:

More of Low's slow rock. Bleak. And there's actually one repeated guitar cord that drive me mad. Still, what Low is doing can be intriguing. Is this a concept album?? (Neile)

Here Low expand their sound with violins to great effect. My favorite track is "Be There" with an organ rave-up and pounding drum that rocks hard, well, hard in a low-key kinda way. This EP offers the promise that along with the impending silence can come some transcendent atmospherics. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


One more reason to forget

Release info:

1998—Bluesanct Musak, P.O. Box 14149, Chicago, IL 60614, U.S.A.—INRIO40CD

Availability:

Limited: mail order to label only, query at drekka7@hotmail.com

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Low fans

Guest artists:

Ida Pearle—violin on 1 track

Comments:

Live in Louisville, KY on November 6, 1997.

Limited-release recording of a Low concert at a church in Louisville, KY. What makes it work so well are the street and car noises that punctuate the silence of the music, which becomes a fourth member of the band. A selection of material from their previous cds. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


owL remix Low

Release info:

VYD27

Availability:

Wide on release in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Low fans

Group members:

Guest artists:

Remixes by porter ricks, neotropic, tranquility bass, dj vadim, skull valley dub, jimmy sommerville/sally herbert

Comments:

A sometimes interesting effort to fit Low into a dance format. Half the tracks work and half are just plain annoying, with little of the original left in the mix. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Secret Name

Release info:

1999—Kranky, PO Box 578743, Chicago, IL 60637, USA—krank 035

Availability:

Wide in U.S.

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Low fans

Group members:

Alan Sparhawk—vocals, guitars, piano
Mimi Parker—vocals, percussion
Zak Sally—bass optigan

Guest artists:

The Triple A Strings:
     Ida Pearle—violin
     Tresa Ellickson—viola
     Kera—cello

Produced by:

"Recorded by Steve Albini"

Comments:

Secret Name has to be one of their best albums released yet. it probably is their snappiest too. you can actually tap your foot to about half the album, and they have written some of their most sublime songs yet.
     Steve Albini did an excellent job recording them, (and that is saying a lot coming from me, as i have mixed feelings about him to say the least) the album has some really strong songs on there, probably just as strong as songs like "Over The Ocean", "Venus", or "Lazy". stand outs are "Starfire" (#2), "Two-Step" (#3), "Immune" (#8), and "Will The Night" (#11).
     of course i might just be partial to the album because they have a song called "Missouri" on it, in which they sing the word "Missouri" over and over, except they make it sound like MI-SE-RY over and over. how apt.
     this is their most accessible album since their first full length. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

it all sounds the same to me with nothing as catchy as was on their first couple of cds. (Neile)

Aurally the most complex and dynamic of any of their cds. Steve Albini's production pumps up the music while muting the vocals. Because of this it is perhaps their most accessible cd since the first and one that I've enjoyed the most. It's as if they've pulled back from the abyss and are now enjoying playing as a rock and roll band again. "Stayfire" could be confused for a radio-friendly pop effort. There are also some hauntingly beautiful songs with vocals by Mimi, especially "Weight of Water." The Triple A String section kick some of the songs into another sonic level. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


Christmas

Release info:

1999

Availability:

At shows or by mail order

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Low fans

Group members:

Low

Produced by:

Low

Comments:

an ep of the most depressing christmas music you have ever heard. fabulous. now i can add to my holiday blues by listening to Low. i may never recover this year. (iflin@speakeasy.net)

A Christmas-music 45 to celebrate the season. Not widely available. Pleasant but not-essential. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


Things We Lost In The Fire

Release info:

2001—Kranky—KRANK046

Availability:

Wide at places that carry indie releases

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended for Low fans or for the curious

Group members:

Zak Sally
Mimi Parker
Alan Sparhawk

Guest artists:

Marc D'gli Antoni—piano, keyboards, sampler
Daniel Huffman—guitar, loops, noises
Tresa Ellickson—viola
Jaron Childs—cello
Bob Weston—trumpet
Ida Pearle—violin
Zach Wallace—double bas
Dusty Syre—backing vocals
Hollis Mae—squeaks, yells

Produced by:

"Recorded by Steve Albini"

Comments:

Wow. The first Low release in years that actually made me prick up my ears and listen to it and want to listen to it. Dare I say it's actually compelling? Especially the "Dinosaur Act" single. (Neile)

One of their best releases. It manages to up the tempo of their style while still maintaining the atmospheric soundscapes they are known for. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


Trust

Release info:

2002—kranky—krank052

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Alan Sparkhawk, Zak Sally, Mimi Parker

Guest artists:

Gerry Beckley—backing vocals (7, 11)
Bobby Woods—organ and accordion (7)
Marc Gartman—banjo (7)
Brian Johnson—bells(9), glockenspiel (10)
Bryan Johnson—trombone (10), shirt (1), stomps (6)
Matt Livingston—saxophone (10)
Starfire—stomps, backing vocals (6)
Eric Swanson, Brad Nelson, Justin Sparhawk, , Bill Meier, Tim Anderson—stomps (6)
Sarah Paul, Wanda Parker-Larson, Amy Abts—backing vocals (6)

Comments:

A step forward into a more pop-orientated sound, but it still has quiet passages. A transitional album. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

A Lifetime of Temporary Relief

10 Years of B-Sides & Rarities

Release info:

2004—Rough Trade—RTRADCDX195

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended for Low fans

Group members:

Alan Sparkhawk, Zak Sally, Mimi Parker

Comments:

3 discs, including 52 songs, rare, unreleased and live tracks, 1993–2003, plus a double-length DVD that includes all videos to date, live footage and a documentary. Box also includes a 32-page booklet.

Pretty much a must-have for fans of the band. A cabinet of curiosities opened by a band that's been around enough to try on a few hats and as such a disjointed, dusty and hit-or-miss setting on 4 CDs. A place where Low air-out experiments, b-sides, and their versions of songs by other artists they admire. A summing up and a breather. Like most of these unwieldy collections you find what you like and skip what you don't. The booklet puts it all in perspective and lets you the dedicated (or obsessive) fan in on the thinking and the journey so far. Worth it, perhaps, for the gathering of their videos. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)


The Great Destroyer

Release info:

2005—SubPop—SPCD 643

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Alan Sparkhawk, Mimi Parker, Zak Sally

Guest artists:

Dave Fridman—keyboards (2, 3, 8, 10)
Gerry Beckley—backing vocals (3)
Hollis Mae—vocals (8)

Produced by:

Low and Dave Fridmann

Comments:

A new label and not so much a new sound for Low as a ramping up. A step forward? A fine-tuning? At points this album is almost pop. Still the identifiable low-fi, and Alan and Mimi's tight harmonies, but with a lushness only touched upon lightly before. While the later half drags a bit (ha!) there are some beautiful songs, including "Silver Ride," "When I Go Deaf" and "On The Edge Of." (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Drums And Guns

Release info:

2007—SubPop—SPCD 736

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Mimi Parker, Alan Sparkhawk, Matt Livingston

Produced by:

Low and Dave Fridmann

Comments:

Short songs, highly structured. No drawn-out drones or slow building dirges. Lyrically, Alan Sparkhawk clearly fights demons—personal as well as political. This is perhaps the first time Low has made full use of stereo-dynamics—instruments and voices came from off-angles rather than straight on, thus acting as a perfect reflection of our disturbing world. Music as a way to address violence? Music as a way to exorcise the destructive? There's not much solace in these songs. A tough but ultimately rewarding listen. (jmgurley@drizzle.com)

Further info:

Write: Low, P.O. Box 600, Duluth, MN 55805, USA

Why the ads?
the Ectophiles' Guide: * Guide Home* What's new* * Alphabetical* Genre* Commentator* Location* Random artist* Search* Contact the editors* Credits

DISCLAIMER: Comments and reviews in the Ectophiles' Guide are excerpted from the ecto mailing list or volunteered by members of the list. They are the opinions of music enthusiasts, not professional music critics.

Entry last updated 2014-03-27 20:42:46.
Please request permission if you wish to
reproduce any of the comments in the
Ectophiles' Guide in any context.

The Ectophiles' Guide to Good Music is copyright © 1996-2004 by the editors.
Individual comments are copyright © by their authors.
Web site design and programming copyright © 1998-2004 usrbin design + programming.
All rights reserved.