Low, The Curtain Hits the Cast
Low: Alan Sparhawk (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Mimi Parker (vocals, percussion); Zak Sally (keyboards, bass).
Recorded at John & Stu's, Seattle, Washington in January & February 1996.
THE CURTAIN HITS THE CAST is Low's third full-length record, and it is a much longer and wordier affair than the band's previous releases. By no means, though, is it a more cheerful record; what can you say about a song with the lines "Mom says / We ruined her body?" Musically, the band maintains the slightly fuzzy sound it introduced following LONG-DIVISION--Mimi Parker's minimalist drumming accents Alan Sparhawk's muted guitar, while the whole thing is pulled along by Zak Sally's expressive but spare basslines.
Standouts include "Over the Ocean" and "Coattails." Both songs are spectacularly delicate, the second highlighting Sally's understated bass and Parker's gorgeous, enveloping voice, which extracts incredible beauty from the one-line lyric. The record's masterpiece, however, is the 14-minute "Do You Know How to Waltz?" The song is broken into three sections and is an ambient epic. After an introduction of ominous swirling sound, the duet vocals of Sparhawk and Parker weave amid the towering guitar and bass notes, before a looping, reverb-drenched guitar (anchored to a very creepy bass line) slowly swells over the song's remaining ten minutes. This is a haunting record that lingers long after the disc stops spinning.
Rolling Stone (10/17/96, p.137) - 3-1/2 Stars - Good/Excellent - "...Its sound is composed of equal parts air and vibe. You don't so much listen to Low's songs as osmotically absorb them. The stately pacing gives much of the material a hymnal quality..."
Spin (11/96, p.126) - 7 - Worthy - "...a classic-type power trio, only one that strikes blows with a velvet hammer....Sparhawk's vocals are mostly fey falsetto, while Parker's are foreboding. The band excels when the two mix and intertwine..."
Melody Maker (8/10/96, p.48) - "...Their trick [is] simple--slow everything down to a deathly cancerous pulsebeat, instill a sense of hushed wonderment which I can perhaps best describe as religious awe, then slow it down some more....awesome, scarcely moving, fantastic music..."
New Musical Express (8/17/96, p.50) - 6 (out of 10) - "...They may be soundtracking your worst catastrophes but, more often than not, it's beautiful. If only in the darkest possible way..."