The Duluth, Minnesota, trio Low could just as easily be called Slow, with their glacially unwinding, minimal soundscapes. Their latest CD, Drums and Guns, has some lovely moments of downbeat grandeur, such as the hymnlike "Breaker," which unfolds with searing keyboards and backward guitars under Alan Sparhawk's gruff, Peter Gabriel–like vocals. "Pretty People" quietly seethes with a blend of buzzing, sizzling background noise that somewhat evokes the distorted squalling of John Cale's viola work with the Velvet Underground, and the somber "Dragonfly" rattles with vague roadway sound effects. The moods of "Belarus" and "Sandinista" are deepened by their cryptic title imagery, as Sparhawk's drummer-wife Mimi Parker brightens the gloom with softly keening harmonies. It's hard to tell if they're being ironic when they coo, "Let's bury the hatchet like the Beatles and the Stones/They'll play our songs forever on the radio," on "Hatchet" because the backing is so austere and non-jokey; it's a welcome, and rare, light touch amid so much foreboding seriousness. In 2005, Sparhawk announced Low's withdrawal from live performances; luckily, he seems to have already changed his mind.
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