Album Review: Lower Dens – Nootropics

Categorised as MUSIC., REVIEWS.

Two years after the release of their debut album, Twin-Hand Movement, Lower Dens are back with a sound just as fresh. New album Nootropics, front girl Jana Hunter’s creation, is available to buy now. Call it what you like—drone, post-punk, ambient, whatever—this band certainly have a sound of their own.

The music of Nootropics features sections of distant, reverb-bathed noise, through which emerge some very clear, crisp and admittedly catchy riffs. It’s this contrast—combined with gradually crescendo-ing drones and memorably funky bass lines—that keeps the sound exciting and the listener engaged. And by engaged, I mean sent into a trance as is the case with certain tracks such as Brains, which begins tame and reserved, but soon a distorted guitar lead slowly pulls you in over the repetitive snare drum, a motor running throughout the entire track.

Other numbers such as Alphabet Song contrast this with a neat verse-chorus structure; this particular track has the ambience of dream pop but also gives off a Radiohead vibe. In fact, the haunting falsettos and high-pitched howls throughout the album seem to be influenced by Thom Yorke’s hypnotic melodies, particularly in Nova Anthem—similar in style to Alphabet Song—which during listening I even had to check Yorke wasn’t a co-writer!

Whilst the slowly increasing anticipation cleverly grown throughout the body of some tracks is no doubt exciting, I felt somewhat disappointed listening to Brains and Candy just because they’re so anticlimactic. I spent five minutes eagerly awaiting something my ears never received; I don’t feel like Hunter delivered or pushed the music as far as she could have.

I did, however, enjoy the surprise of Zola Jesus-esque electronic drum effects featured in Lamb, and Propagation’s warm, ethereal harmonies. The sound can be very unpredictable at times, which is definitely a positive attribute. Also, although a slow starter, two-part jam Lion in Winter introduces a neat upbeat second half after a drone-filled introduction, laced with cries from echoey guitars with a lot of flange.

Ghostly but warm vocal harmonies juxtapose snappy drum rhythms throughout this kaleidoscopic masterpiece. At times soothing and reserved, but at others spookily intense and warped, listening to Hunter’s latest project is like taking an aural LSD, and lovers of the Dens’s first album should definitely check out this release.

Monday 14th May – Brighton, UK – The Hope
Tuesday 15th May – London, White Heat at Madam Jojo’s – stage time 9.30pm
Wednesday 16th May – London, UK – The Lexington – SOLD OUT
Sunday 3rd June – EIR – Forbidden Fruit Festival

Joe Bligh

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