When I first heard Low's 1994 debut, I Could Live in Hope, I dismissed the band as a Galaxie 500 rip-off--another quiet, mixed-gender trio who'd probably worn out a few copies of the Velvet Underground's third LP between rehearsals. (Producer Kramer had even treated the album to the same reverb bath he gave Galaxie 500's records in the late 80s.) But when I saw Low in concert two years later, my skepticism vanished: they seduced me away from a back-of-the-bar gabfest with the gentle care and stubborn concentration they devoted to their hushed, ultraslow songs. Not long after that show, guitarist Alan Sparhawk and drummer Mimi Parker (who are married) and bassist Zak Sally left the Vernon Yard label and retreated to their Duluth, Minnesota, home studio, where they began recording for the Chicago indie Kranky. The band cut a mini-album, Songs for a Dead Pilot, and contributed to Jessica Bailiff's Even in Silence, revealing a hitherto undocumented taste for sonic adventure: they poured dense waves of guitar noise over Bailiff's songs and layered their own with grainy keyboards and melancholy strings. Elements from both sessions carry over into Low's latest and best release, Secret Name, recorded in Chicago by Steve Albini. Albini's dry, spacious production focuses the delicately shaded melodies, Sparhawk and Parker's prayerful singing, and the crackly textures of Sally's Optigan (an "optical organ" that uses a beam of light to read waveforms etched into a clear plastic disc). Expect the Optigan but not the string section at this show. Low headlines a packed bill, following the splendid southwestern duo Calexico, local faux cowboys the Pinetop Seven, and singer-songwriter Shannon Wright. Thursday, June 3, 8 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 773-549-0203. BILL MEYER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Kristin Grieve.