Lower Dens & No Joy at Neumo’s, Seattle | 6 July 2012
It wasn’t hot in Neumo’s Friday night, but if it had been Lower Dens could have cooled it off with their Hyberborean hypnotic mix of ethereal and motorik. I will be the first to admit that I wasn’t a fan of the Baltimore band’s first album Twin Hand Movement. It was too uneven to really make an impact, but second album Nootropics is a different story. It isn’t vastly different from their first. Same atmosphere, but they’ve increased their German (and Bowie in Germany) tendencies digesting them to the point where they aren’t always obvious. This is a band clearly firing on all cylinders: Melodic bass lines, amazing understated guitar and steady 4/4 rhythms gluing everything together.
They played in front of a screen displaying blurry hallucinogenic imagery which added to the atmosphere created by the music. Androgynous singer Jana Hunter stood behind her keyboard rig, sometimes picking up a guitar but mostly entrancing everyone with her haunting Siouxie-like vocals. The band seemed to stretch everything out and make it more palpable. Many of the version of the songs were more muscular and the material from Twin Hand Movement really benefited from it, but even the Nootropics songs took on a more solid state. The pulsing beats of Brains and Lion In Winter Pt. 2 were easy highlights. The lazy guitar lead of Alphabet Song and the wonderful bass line of A Dog’s Dick were invigorating and the breezy Nova Anthem rejuvenated everyone.
The final song of the set In the End Is the Beginning ends in a wimper on the record, but this version took the band out in a squall. It went on for at least the twelve minutes that it gets on Nootropics. The band couldn’t quite decide when to end it. Guitarist Will Adams set his guitar feeding back into his amp and walked off stage and then Hunter followed leaving the rhythm section left to motor on. I assumed they would leave one by one, but Hunter came back out, to not play but just check things out, and then Adams came back out to turn his guitar off, and then they all left the stage again leaving drummer to wrap things up. It was quite the post-modern encore, deconstructing the seemingly senseless ritual inside of a single mind-bending song. They could have called it a night and I think everyone expected them to because the audience didn’t really try, they just kind of milled around unsure if it was over. It wasn’t, they returned for a halfhearted two minute song and then disappeared. I still left impressed, but I would have been more impressed if they hadn’t done an encore. They had nothing left to prove.
Listen to all of Nootropics on Spotify.
Canadian band No Joy opened. Having a weak spot for shoegaze I have liked their records, but not loved them. Live they sound nothing like any of their records. No shoegaze here, more like Dinosaur Jr and Husker Du. It was a powerful sound, but they seemed even less sure of themselves than they do on record. Everything sounded the same with the drums overwhelming everything. I though seeing them live would cement my liking them, but it only lead to more uncertainty.