Thad Aerts
HifiZine writer and reviewer

There’s this band called Lower Dens that I have been listening to a lot lately. I picked up their first record Twin Hand Movement a few weeks back. It was released in 2010 on Gnomonsong. It’s a charming record that is a mixture of mostly multi-decade past bands mixed up with a pinch here and a dash there to create an updated representation of them all. The first reference point I heard was Galaxie 500 with all the big sounding, innocently noisy guitars. There is a lot of the same era 4AD sounding stuff going on as well. When they slow it down, they adapt a Joy Division/vintage Cure slant. There is maybe even a little Aislers Set and 60’s pop in there too. The thing about this record is it’s one of those rarities that won’t bowl you over the first listen but the more you listen, the more comfortable it becomes. After about the fourth or fifth time through, you’ll be pleasantly reminded at the beginning of each track that you had forgotten how much you liked it. Jana Hunter’s (for the most part) indiscernible vocals work perfectly, though often times getting buried in the mix of swirling guitars. The thing about Twin Hand Movement is that it just feels like a raw record that was made for its own sake – and really nothing else. It doesn’t feel contrived – and believe me, I realize that sounds impossible given the reference points I mentioned above. But somehow, the Baltimore band pulls it off.

So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the band was releasing their second full-length just days after I stumbled onto their first. Nootropics, which was released on Ribbon Music, takes the band in a different direction. The swirling guitars are put to bed and the absence of them leaves a stripped down, krautrock version of the band’s initial offering. Hunter’s vocals have surfaced but perhaps only because there is less for them to be buried under. Nootropics is definitely a bit more mature then Twin Hand Movement but I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss those guitars a bit. In light of their absence, I still dig the record – a lot. Like Twin Hand Movement, it also becomes more and more familiar with each listen. Reflecting on these two records has me genuinely curious what else the band has up their sleeves. I don’t think Lower Dens will be garnering any big-time attention anytime soon – and that’s just fine. When fans of the band cross paths, they’ll know they are part of a secret society of sorts.

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