Electric Lounge
Tuesday, December 10

Much like the jet lag that affects intercontinental travelers, Low's reworking of musical pace is a bit disconcerting when you first step into their zone. By slowing their already sparse songs to a creep, the Duluth, Minnesota trio allows the tension of every single note to seep in at full emotive power, a prospect that doesn't always sit well with uninitiated clubgoers. "You're kind of getting up there and opening up your vital organs to people in a very vulnerable way," says guitarist Alan Sparhawk. "There are ways you can kind of protect yourself in your mind, but it can be very humiliating if you let it get to you."

One way to protect yourself is to maintain an armor of outcast spirituality. "Once you get past the embarrassment of the fact that someone does not like what you're laying down, it's usually kind of fun to keep sticking it in their face," Sparhawk says. Another road to empowerment is a well-executed example of your craft, such as the Steve Fisk-produced The Curtain Hits the Cast (Vernon Yard/Caroline).

Seldom has a minimalist band exercised this much concentrated discipline. Along with his wife, percussionist Mimi Parker, and bassist Zak Sally, Sparhawk has constructed a sound that goes to work on a subconscious level. "It can be very satisfying to be able to concentrate that hard on maintaining a certain mood and a certain tension without completely exploding," he says. "I guess that's kind of another facet or possibility for the performer/audience relationship. The whole feel-my-anger, feel-my-aggression kind of thing has been done to death and done really well by many people, but hopefully, there are some other things that could be communicated to an audience."

Indeed, songs like "Coattails" and the 14-minute meltdown "Do You Know How To Waltz?" lure you into a slightly unreal trance with the same off-kilter finesse of a provocative book, film, or work of art. "It's probably a handicap in a lot of ways, but I picture sound on a visual level," Sparhawk says. "Whether it's structures or textures of sound, I see them in my mind. When we're playing what we play, we're approaching it in several senses, I guess."

With that between your cheek and gum, don't be too surprised if Low's performance leaves you with sea legs, cinema squints, and a peculiar jones for melatonin. -- Greg Beets [American Analog Set opens]

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