Lower Dens: A Blissful Swarm Of Feedback

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Lower Dens' "Hospice Gates" is a perfect foil for Jana Hunter's voice and anxious, inward-looking point of view. courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Lower Dens

Lower Dens' "Hospice Gates" is a perfect foil for Jana Hunter's voice and anxious, inward-looking point of view.

courtesy of the artist

Wednesday's Pick

  • Song: "Hospice Gates"
  • Artist: Lower Dens
  • CD: Twin-Hand Movement
  • Genre: Folk-Rock

On her two most recent solo albums, Texas-born, Baltimore-based singer Jana Hunter created stark, homemade folk songs that made listeners feel as if they were intruding on an intimate bedroom-recording experiment. Accompanied by finger-picked acoustic guitars, her dusky voice dispensed overlapping harmonies with stunning beauty.

Now, with Twin-Hand Movement, Hunter not only reinvents herself musically, but also reintroduces herself and her backing band under the name Lower Dens. With mixing assistance from Chris Coady (who has helped shape albums by TV on the Radio and Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and mastering by Sarah Register of Talk Normal, Lower Dens' members have constructed a lean yet powerful sound to fill out Hunter's songs. It's jarring to hear her words buried under a blissful swarm of noise and guitar feedback, but the result is powerful enough to make listeners reassess how much her music has evolved.

While Hunter and her ghostly voice remain the focus — albeit frequently obscured and incomprehensible — the changes can be heard immediately. Finding a sweet spot somewhere amidst Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Beach House, Lower Dens' standout track "Hospice Gates" can be calming and even hauntingly ethereal. Yet the song also explodes into fits of brashly discordant melodies and brooding harmonic tension, creating a perfect foil for Hunter's voice and anxious, inward-looking point of view.

Lower Dens' approach is decidedly raw and primitive, and several of the new band's songs sound like underdeveloped sketches. But in "Hospice Gates" and elsewhere, the group captures an in-the-moment feeling for a songwriter who's still discovering new sides of her music.

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