Before coming out for an almost-unheard-of-at-Glasslands three-song encore, frontwoman Jana Hunter of Lower Dens stepped out from behind the keys and mic stand to stand in front of the monitors, among the crowd, and close the main set with the Houston musician Arthur Bates’ “Hours”. And why the hell not? Though known for being a bit reserved onstage, Hunter has watched her Baltimore-based band be anointed an “It” band in the city that decides such things. She certainly has nothing to be self-conscious about, if she ever did.
Not that this extremely sold-out show, or the spate of overwhelmingly positive recent reviews, are the first time anyone noticed the band. Their first record, Twin-Hand Movement, had a lot to recommend it, and critics agreed. But Nootropics, which dropped this week, is the kind of record that takes the band’s sound and appeal to the proverbial “next level”. Rather than an excellent followup to a good start, Nootropics accomplishes the feat that bedevils many second records – evolving the band’s sound and broadening its sonic palette while retaining the core of what drew notice in the first place.
As to that palette, those of us who came of age in the eras of Luna or Galaxie 500 wouldn’t have had trouble finding the Dean Wareham influences all over the band’s early sound, with the fuzzed-out guitars forming the sea that bore along gentle but compelling melodies. The band’s first offerings from Nootropics, “Brains” and “Propagation”, continue that tradition, but also make it clear that there is more going on this time around, with Eno and Kraftwerk influences bubbling to the fore. Stripped of the album’s gauzy texture and replacing it with the raw immediacy (and minimal processing) of the intimate Glasslands stage, Lower Dens made the case for being able to carry well-produced album material in the live setting. It never hurts to have a sellout crowd, of course, and there were so many people crowding the stage there were practically people on top of the band. I won’t be surprised to find the same state of affairs at Bowery Ballroom in a couple months when they end their current tour.
Not only was this set long by Glasslands standards (71 minutes is practically a Springsteen concert in a venue where most sets clock in well under an hour), but the encore included a special cover of the Houston psych-rock pioneers Red Krayola’s “A Portait of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock” – proving that the Texas-born Hunter, like any good musician, also has a great record collection.
I recorded this set with Schoeps MK5 cardiod microphones and a soundboard feed provided by Glasslands and the band’s FOH. The sound is excellent. Enjoy!
Lower Dens play Bowery Ballroom on Thursday, July 19. Tickets go on sale May 4 at noon.
Stream “A Portrait of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock [Red Krayola]
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Recorded and produced by acidjack
Schoeps MK5 (cardiod, DFC, 8ft, DIN)>KCY>Z-PFA>Sound Devices USBPre2 + Soundboard >> Edirol R-44 [Oade Concert Mod]>Adobe Audition CS 5.5 (align, mixdown)>Audacity 2.0 (set fades, tracking, slight EQ, amplify, balance, downsample)>FLAC ( level 8 )
Tracks [Total Time 1:11:18]
01 I Get Nervous
03 Deer Knives
04 Alphabet Song *
06 Blue & Silver
08 Completely Golden
09 Lion In Winter Pt. 1
10 Lion In Winter Pt. 2
12 Hospice Gates
13 Nova Anthem
14 Hours [Arthur Bates]
15 [encore break]
16 A Portait of V.I. Lenin in the Style of Jackson Pollock [Red Krayola]
18 A Dog’s Dick