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Low is an American indie rock group from Duluth, Minnesota, formed in 1993. As of 2010, the group is composed of founding members Alan Sparhawk (guitar and vocals) and Mimi Parker (drums and vocals), joined by newer addition Steve Garrington (bass guitar).The music of Low is characterized by slow tempos and minimalist arrangements. Early descriptions sometimes referred to it as rock subgenre called "slowcore". However, Low's members ultimately disapproved of the term.Parker and Sparhawk's striking vocal harmonies represent perhaps the group's most distinctive element; critic Denise Sullivan writes that their shared vocals are "as chilling as anything Gram and Emmylou ever conspired on—though that's not to say it's country-tinged, just straight from the heart."
The band formed in the spring of 1993. Sparhawk had been playing in the Superior, Wisconsin band Zen Identity,
the core of which was formed by drummer Robb Berry and vocalist Bill Walton. That band needed a new bassist and recruited future Low bassist John Nichols. At that time, Nichols was a senior at Superior Senior High School, and bassist in the band Lorenzo's Tractor. Sparhawk taught Zen Identity songs to Nichols and during practices, the two started improvising with some very modest, quiet themes. As a joke, they wondered what would happen if they played such quiet music in front of Duluth crowds, which at that point focused around the loud, grunge, "post-punk" sound. Soon, the joke became a serious thought. Sparhawk left Zen Identity, who continued to perform and record without him, and he and Nichols recruited Sparhawk's wife Mimi Parker to play a very modest drum kit composed of a single cymbal and a single floor tom. She was to use brushes almost exclusively rather than drum sticks.
Low at Duluth's Electric Fetus
Low's debut album, I Could Live in Hope, was released on Virgin Records' Vernon Yard imprint in 1994. It featured Nichols on bass, though he was replaced by Sally, who joined for the recording of the band's next album Long Division. Both I Could Live in Hope and Long Division were produced and recorded by Kramer. Long Division and its similar follow-up, 1996's The Curtain Hits the Cast, established the band as critical darlings; extensive touring helped them to develop a highly devoted fan base. "Over the Ocean," a single drawn from The Curtain Hits the Cast, also became something of a hit on college radio.
By the time of their next full-length album (1999's Secret Name) Low had moved to the independent label Kranky. In between, they released several singles and EPs. In 1999, Low joined forces with Dirty Three to record an In The Fishtank session for Konkurrent records. Allmusic called the six-song disc "some of the best material either unit has produced." Of particular note is the disc's lengthy cover of Neil Young's "Down by the River." 2001 saw the release of Things We Lost in the Fire.
The following year saw the release of the band's final full-length on Kranky, Trust. All three of the band's full-length releases on Kranky featured superstar producers: Secret Name and Things We Lost in the Fire feature the work of recording engineer Steve Albini, who proved sympathetic to capturing the band's strengths; while Trust was recorded by Tom Herbers along with Duluth engineer Eric Swanson and mixed by Tchad Blake at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios.Wide ThumbClearartFanartBanner User Comments