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The Scarlet & Black

Lower Dens Comes With Atmospheric Jams

This Saturday, Grinnellians can look forward to yet another spectacular musical performance, perhaps more cerebral and emotionally-charged than usual, by Baltimore-based indie rock (for lack of a more encompassing term) quartet, Lower Dens.

Lower Dens is the latest project of Texas-born guitarist and singer, Jana Hunter. Hunter, who was the first artist to release an album on Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic’s record label, Gnomonsong, traded in her freak-folk solo career for a more traditional band whose style has been compared to the likes of The xx and Beach House. Do not let these comparisons fool you, however. After the successful release of their debut album, Twin Hand Movement, in 2010, the members of Lower Dens have gained significant recognition for their unique sound.

Spanning the spectrum of alternative rock, Lower Dens floats between dream pop and shoegaze, while precariously grazing subgenres of the ambient realm. Twin Hand Movement, in particular, is a confusing mix of classic guitar shreds, subtle bass waves, tame, yet persistent drumbeats, and muffled baritone vocals that somehow make for an inexplicably evocative musical experience. Lower Dens is vaguely reminiscent of M83 circa “Don’t Save Us from the Flames,” though darker, unforgiving in their lyrics and instrumentation.

Even so, Lower Dens is much less about the coupling of music and lyrics than they are about developing an atmospheric and evocative influence translated through music. Each song off of Twin Hand Movement, for example, reels you in with a swelling introduction and maintains your attention by way of Hunter’s deep, soothing, PJ Harvey-esque vocals. However, these songs often refuse to totally resolve those feelings of longing or bewilderment they inspired. Concerts Chair, Pooj Padmaraj ’13, admits that these feelings drove his decision to bring Lower Dens to Grinnell.

“This album is very haunting in some ways. The noise kind of swells and as the songs progress, you get this really weird feeling while you listen to them. I’ve heard that they’re really good live because that noise—you really feel it while you’re listening to it live,” Padmaraj said.

In addition to inspiring ambiguous and obscure feelings within Grinnellians, Lower Dens will also be showcasing music off of their new album, Nootropics, which is set to be released on May 1st. Aptly named after the blanket term for “smart” drugs, memory enhancers, and other such pharmaceuticals, Nootropics examines the role of technology in extending human capabilities.

Lower Dens will be playing in Gardner Lounge this Saturday at 9:00 P.M. Opening will be solo artist, Fort Frances.

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