Swarming guitar fuzz, bass waves, Jana Hunter's voice, and insistent drum throbs are the core components of Baltimore's Lower Dens. Hunter, sometimes known for intimate, ghost-heavy weird-fi, is now writing and playing with a group that might get filed as new wave, or drone pop, or post-punk. With due deference to her solo work, we're very glad.
The swarming wave-throb, coupled with Hunter's lyrics and redolent, charred voice, wrecks. The band's upcoming record, Twin-Hand Movement, is eleven perfect songs long. From opener "Blue & Silver" (anxiety mounts at a quick clip until the final climactic release) to "Plastic & Powder" (a churning, narcotic slow-burner) to "Hospice Gates" (penultimate album cut, proud weirdo anthem, possible creative zenith), not one is a space-taker. They're rife with the survivalist paranoia you'd expect from residents of a post-urban port hole (and this particular songwriter), crafted methodically and beautifully, and carry you enthusiastically out into the rolling breaks of industrial filth-water.
Lower Dens formed in 2009, when Hunter set about finding a full-time band. They spent the rest of the year sweating in attics and basements, and only stepped out of the shadows to do a quick tour and record. Twin-Hand Movement was recorded by Chris Freeland (ex-Oxes drummer; proprietor of Beat Babies, Baltimore), mixed by Chris Coady (at his DNA, NYC), and mastered by Sarah Register (of the Lodge, NYC and the band Talk Normal.)
Texas-born Golden Apple, R.E.M. coverer, and ex-pizza shop employe Jana Hunter is currently living in Baltimore and fronting the quartet, Lower Dens. She was the first person to release a record on Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic's Gnomonsong via 2005's Blank Unstaring Heirs Of Doom, followed by 2007's There's No Home and Carrion EP on the same label. Sticking to the DevBan path, Lower Dens have a 7 single and a full-length Twin-Hand Movement forthcoming on Gnomonsong. As far as other constants, Hunter still has that dusky, powerful voice. Otherwise, things are more band-like, less bedroom experimental. It suits her: Hunter felt like a frontwoman even when she was recording solo on a 4-track. That said, Lower Dens is much more than simply Hunter under another name. See what we mean via this cover of Mayo Thompson's "Dear Betty Baby," which won't be on their forthcoming album, but appears on a collection of demos they'r selling at shows. (Worth noting: We discovered Lower Dens at a show at Death By Audio a few weeks ago opening for Double Dagger and Future Islands, and selected this track after purchasing their demos at the merch table. Yes, purchasing they were that good.) (Also note: LD have songs titled "A Dogs Dick" and "Two Cocks," but we haven't cracked any conceptual codes as of yet.) To give you a fuller understanding of the group, we also have Twin-Hand Movement's "Hospice Gates."
HIS & HERS VANITIES
Madison, Wisconsin-based His & Her Vanities developed when Ricky and Terrin Riemer began writing music together in their basement while their infant son was asleep at night. With Terrin playing around on bass and Ricky on drums, the couple worked up entire song arrangements, recorded them, and layered other instruments and vocals on top. After amassing a collection of slightly angular, post-punk/pop-rock songs this way, the couple decided to bring the songs to the stage with a full band. In 2001, drummer Sara Quigle joined the Riemers, and with Ricky moving to guitar they played several shows together before recording their self-titled debut, released in June 2002. With the addition of Matt Abplanalp on rhythm guitar (also a bandmate of Ricky's in spazzy math-rock band Transformer Lootbag), H&HV emerged as a four-piece for live shows.
While the debut album's extensive use of back-up vocals and synthesizer tracks at times gravitated toward sonic chaos, their sophomore effort, "A Thought Process" (2004), took a toned-down approach presenting the songs closer to the way they would sound live. Immediately following the disc's release, Ricky and Terrin's second son arrived, making it a little trickier to find creative time to work on new H&HV music. Concurrently, their self-run record label, Science of Sound, began growing as well. After existing solely to release their own bandsÃ¢ÂÂ music, the label's reach expanded to other Midwestern acts including the garage-folk punk of Sleeping in the Aviary and orchestral-pop outfit Pale Young Gentlemen. Between time spent promoting the label, more extensive recording work for others in their basement studio and raising two active young boys, it took awhile for H&HV's third release to emerge. But "The Mighty Lunge" makes it to the finish line in October 2009. Self-recorded, mixed and produced, with eight tracks and a running time just shy of 30 minutes, "The Mighty Lunge" combines many of the band's past sounds along with some fresh forms of experimentation.
Praise for H&HVÃ¢ÂÂs debut album, Ã¢ÂÂHis & Her VanitiesÃ¢ÂÂ (2002):
While the arty His & Her Vanities owes a great deal of its canon to post-punkers Devo, the spirited recklessness of the Pixies, and even the pre-punk innovators the Monks, it would be severely unfair to dub the group as a carbon copy of anything. An infectious, fun, and refreshing group that simultaneously stands far out from and somehow fits into the scene of the numerous punk and post-punk revivalist bands that dominated indie culture during the early 2000s.
Ã¢Â" All Music Guide
Jagged vocal and instrumental lines drift in and out of phase in organic accidents, creating songs so thick that the listener has to experience the music rather than digest its parts. I believe H&HV prefers its songs to be lessons in audience concentration until ultimately forcing the audience to surrender to the chaos that swirls about. My advice: trust the band to take you on their ride.
Ã¢Â" Too Much Rock
Praise for H&HVÃ¢ÂÂs sophomore album, Ã¢ÂÂA Thought ProcessÃ¢ÂÂ (2004):
Ã¢ÂÂÃ¢ÂÂ¦A Thought Process, marks a new His and Her Vanities; a less experimental, more comfortable song-writing entity, one thatÃ¢ÂÂs begun to place the raw power of guitar, bass, and drums at the foreground, and glitchy electronics at the back. Every arrangement is so creative, every song a work of surprising ingenuityÃ¢ÂÂ¦Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢Â" Emmie Magazine
This 10-song disc marks a confident step forward for HHV, as the band's driving, danceable rhythms and angular, Devo-esque melodies are brought into even sharper focus. In particular, Ricky's guitar leads chime, clang and roar like a symphony of metal-stamping tools, while the whole band infuse the catchy "Notapartablurb" with an extra steroid boost. And for a welcome twist, splashes of early-Pink Floyd psychedelia color the soft-toned "Field Fire". More so than on their debut, there's a discernible sense of warmth coursing through this album. It's a subtle, largely indefinable quality, but one that strongly suggests the Vanities have come into their own.
Ã¢Â" The Isthmus
The Project Lodge
817 E. Johnson St.
Madison, WI 53703
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