Review Summary: One more dance...
''Why do we like sad songs?'' asked earlier this week a music columnist for his radio audience. For if the popularity of sad songs is consensus, may be it only by the importance it holds in special requests, reminded the animator, wouldn’t there be any scientific reason to explain these facts? It is after joining a neuropsychologist, expert in sounds and their effects on brain, that she began to explain how our body, as a natural defense against sadness, products prolactin, a relaxing and calming hormone which provides a sense of comfort and well-being. Here goes one more point in favor of the option ''singing along My Immortal
alone in the dark’’ as the most effective way to get through a difficult breakup! After all… we now have evidence that listening sad songs… makes us happy! Of course, as science and art don’t always go hand in hand, this should be taken with a grain of salt, but in all seriousness, if a sad song can be so important to us, it is due to its ability to share with us solitude in a way no being can do, and if there is an album that truly fulfills this task, it is indeed The Curtain Hits The Cast
, third installment of the well-established slowcore group Low.
Pioneers in the genre, the original band of Minnesota, as in his first two outings, opts for a sad and gloomy atmosphere, but stands out this time on TCHTC
by minimalism pushed to the extreme, as much in the musical composition as in the written lyrics, sung alternately or duo by Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. The snare of Parker, which appears on the cover art, stands as the almost only source of percussion during the 65:01 that last the album. Add to that Sparhawk’s simple yet melancholic guitar chords as well as Zak Sally’s monotonous bass line and we are with every ingredient needed to create a true atmosphere of pea soup as the composition is opaque and homogeneous from one end to another.
However, such a homogeneous album has its advantages and disadvantages. Even after several listens, it may seem difficult to distinguish one song from another as they, on almost all fronts, resemble themselves. Quite frankly, some songs completely lose their meaning when heard individually. Such is the case with tracks like Mom Says
. In fact, apart from the opener Anon
and the very beautiful Over The Ocean
, on which both Sparhawk and Parker join for great singing, all the work has much better taste when consumed as whole. Because that is the strength of Low. This ability to create a rich yet relaxing atmosphere of sadness with rarely more than three chords per song confirms their important influence of the slowcore genre. Some will criticize the singings to be too monotonous but it is not: there could exist on The Curtain Hits The Cast no alternative to the depressive and dull voices that float like a thick smoke from beginning to end of the album. Too great a change of tone would just blow this smudge and thereby break the heavy atmosphere that gives the album its obscurity.
Once sadness has really taken part of the ambiance, Low waits till the near end of the album to open a hatch in the floor and drag us even deeper into the darkness where all hope to glimpse light seems to have vanished as the 14 minutes song Do You Know How To Waltz?
show a post-rock side of the band we’d loved to discover earlier. Appear on this track some of the most beautiful lines ever written:
One more dance
Before they take away the light
One more spin around the line
One more step
And then we’ll turn and face the depth
One more reason to forget
There is a live version of Low duet with Godspeed You! Black Emperor spreading the piece up to 27 minutes. Contrary to the opinion of some, the poor quality of the recording only enhances the rawness of the tormented emotions present throughout the performance. A musical masterpiece for those finding pleasure in being musically tortured.
Once completed, the band literally brings us back to the surface with Dark, the final title, which is a very short poem sung by Alan Sparhawk and accompanied by only a slight guitar.
The Curtain Hits The Cast
remains to this day a staple of slowcore and an eternal companion in solitude, reminding us that there are many things to be feared, but that darkness should not be part of them.