Review: Lower Dens – Twin-Hand Movement

Lower Dens – Twin-Hand Movement

Genres are great for lazy reviewers because they provide shortcuts.  Call something post-punk and the reader immediately thinks of the moodiness of Joy Division or the rhythms and spiky guitars of Gang of Four.  Call it dream-pop and you’re conjuring Mazzy Star and Cocteau Twins.  It’s a bitch when you come across something like Lower Dens that you can’t easily slap a label on.  They’re too grounded to be considered dream-pop, but too airy to comfortably wear the post-punk tag.

When I saw them back in May, this is how I described them: “They do fuzzy drone-pop that sounds like what might happen if Charalambides lost their patience and decided to record a rock album.  Not that they’re much like a traditional rock band – texture is emphasized over hooks.”

After spending some time with their debut album, Twin-Hand Movement, I’m not sure that description is totally accurate.   For starters, Lower Dens are definitely a rock band, one with a tight rhythm section and guitars that sound like guitars.  They’ve also got hooks, as evidenced by songs like “Tea Lights” and “Hospice Gates,” either of which would more than hold its own on a mixtape.

I’m not completely backing down on that texture comment, though.  The greatest strength of Lower Dens is their ability to incorporate interesting sonics into a fairly straightforward rock format that ultimately sounds like something fresh.  Bass and drums usually hold the tracks together, leaving the guitars free to explore the space around the songs.  That sounds like an approach that could lead to overly indulgent wankery, but it’s not.  With the exception of the 6 minute “Plastic & Powder,” which sounds like it could be one of the mopier Kim Gordon tracks from the early Sonic Youth albums, the songs on Twin-Hand Movement mostly stay between 2 and 4 minutes.  They jam econo through 11 tracks in under 40 minutes.  It feels like it’s about half that long, which is usually a good sign.

If you’re in Atlanta, go see them at 529 on September 15th.  Here’s a kinda trippy live video:

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  1. September 13th, 2010

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