Sunday, June 15, 2008


Tension and release. It's all about tension and release.

Except in my memory "Embrace" is all tension and no release; maybe it's the lines "Pushing my body to get that embrace" and then "Crushing your skull with my warming embrace," but as the kick drum pounds away softly in the background, it feels to me like something slowly tightening in, sealing off all escape. There's a little bit of guitar noise and a lovely violin, but mostly (for most of "Embrace") you're just in a room with Mimi. She's beautiful, but she's a little scary, maybe moreso than on any other Low track. "It won't last, hold on fast" she tells you. Brace yourself.

If it ended there, at 3:20 or so, "Embrace" might be more evocative of a given (stifling) mood, and I might even listen to it more outside of its parent album, I don't know. But at 3:20, the drums pick up, Alan starts strumming a bit more determinedly, the violin pitches up into a soaring keen, and Mimi gives her singing a bit of stick: She sounds stressed, although her voice sounds fine. She sings with a heat that she usually doesn't bring to songs, really belting it out. It only lasts for forty seconds or so, but it's the part of a Low song I could most imagine as horror movie:

I fell down the stairs
I wished I were dead
You ran for the light
He handed me your head

And then we're back to the calm, the slow doom of the drum, the occasional guitar note. As with so many Low songs, if you loop this one beginning and end merge smoothly into an endless, potentially unending vista; but there's an irruption in the middle. "It won't last - hold on fast."

(NB. Alan says, "another one people thought was so violent, with all the head-crushing and stuff, but it's really quite intimate and personal." Which it is, but from the outside plenty of intimate and personal things become vaguely terrifying - one of the great insights of horror literature, cinema, etc.)