Review: Lower Dens “Twin-Hand Movement”

Published on BLURT – Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lower Dens
Twin-Hand Movement

(Gnomonsong)

It’s no secret that Jana Hunter is weathered. The ethereal Texas-born, Baltimore-based songstress has played her parts in outfits like CocoRosie, Phosphorescent, Indian Jewelry, and Matteah Baim, among others; formed the chart-topping Matty & Mossy, whose songs appeared in the Andrew Bujalski films Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation; and recorded a spilt LP with the empyrean Devendra Banhart in 2005, the same year she released her solo debut, Black Unstaring Heirs of Doom, on Banhart’s and Andy Cabic’s (of Vetiver) Gnomonsong label. And now, equipped with years of experience and indie distinction, Hunter has traded in her intimate low-fi weird-folk for disconnected low-fi shoegaze via her latest act, Lower Dens and their debut album, Twin-Hand Movement.

There’s a disappointing hitch with Lower Dens’ debut that’s terribly hard to shake – it’s completely disjointed in its execution. The first part of the album is grappled with textural slow-burners (“A Dog’s Dick,” “Truss Me” and “I Get Nervous”) that are more head-to-the-ground tense than smoky, wave-throb sermons. And Hunter, who is known for her ambrosially blistered singing, sounds more like a mumbling mime than an eidolic siren – incomprehensible and detached. It’s like a basement-trapped mid-age shoegaze act warming up for a never-booked gig – is this experimentation or an identity crisis?

That answer titters until the second part of Twin-Hand Movement comes into play. Starting with the disquietingly clever “Hospice Gates,” the tracks on the other side of the 11 that make up this debut have more verve and assurance – polished in its sound without purging the rawness. Hunter’s anti-social vocals exude more of a sparkle of poise during these last few tracks, and the overall melodic marsh of copious sound is more palpable. Twin-Hand Movement’sfuzzy obscurity is easy to breathe in, even if the jangly swell build up of closer “Blue & Silver” was anti-climatic.

And that leaves us with this: was the name of the debut intentional or foretelling?

DOWNLOAD: “Rosie,” “Hospice Gates”

ANNAMARYA SCACCIA

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