Step Right Up: Lower Dens
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
Lower Dens are at the heart of the current Baltimore scene. Together with the likes of Beach House and Wye Oak, they create shimmering, otherworldly indie music. Led by Jana Hunter, the band formed in 2009 and in a short space of time they have distilled their distinct eerie otherness of sound. ‘Nootropics’ is their latest album and similar to neighbour’s Beach House current album ‘Bloom’, is one of the milestones of 2012 and beyond. Lush future pop (current single ‘Propagation’), hypnotic krautrock infused rhythms (‘Brains’), swirling meditative hymns (‘Lamb’) are meticulously crafted.
Lyrically, the album deals with transhumanism and feelings about technology. ‘Nootropics’, the album’s title is defined as ‘a substance that enhances cognition and memory and facilitates learning’. Jana Hunter says ‘The record as a whole begs for an assessment of all the flaws inherent in our existence, and to imagine a better, more suitable, logical way for humanity to live’. The opening track ‘Alphabet Song’ is a reference to a 1920 dadaist poem by Louis Aragon titled ‘Suicide’ that Hunter says ‘looks at our history as a species’. ‘Propogation’ explores the desire to procreate while ‘Brains’ studies our relationship to technology. Musically, ‘Nootropics’ delves into krautrock and electronic soundscapes together with their guitar based dream pop. The latter was very evident on the band’s debut album ‘Twin Hand Movement’ released in 2010.
The large sonic palette Lower Dens now draw from makes ‘Nootropics’ an utterly engaging landscape of sound full of hidden subtleties and meticulous beauty warped in mystery and intrigue. The brooding synths, lazer guided melodies creates a unique realm of both dark and light. The journey Lower Dens take you on is akin to a sci-fi exploration of one’s inner-self and in essence one’s very own existence. The Baltimore
collective have made an ambitious work which exceeds on every level.
‘Nootropics’ is available now on Ribbon Music.