Label: Gnomonsong Release date: 23/08/10 Official Site Buy: Amazon I always return to Texas. It’s a huge state, and full of bands and artists that somehow end up being mentioned at least once a week. No, it’s not one of my token Jandek references this time (although seriously, he’s great), this time it’s Jana Hunter. When not focusing on her own folk/acoustic music, she now seems to be heading Baltimore rock band Lower Dens to some degree of great effect. With their debut Twin Hand Movement they seem hell bent on making their music as individually exciting as possible and do manage to succeed most of the time. Whereas previous Jana Hunter releases and collabs seemed to stay heavily rooted to that whole “freak folk” thing that critics and hipsters bandy about, Lower Dens immediately strike as being a band about moving away from that while consciously noting its influence (which is undeniable given Hunter’s presence). More often the not, the songs lie somewhere in a comfortable realm of gentle rock (think Beach Fossils), mild Delta influences (think Muddy Waters), and a hint of motorik and Krautrock (albeit only in relation to the drums). At times, like the extended guitar workout of ‘Tea Lights,’ there’s a marked change from the lyric heavy songs of Hunter, instead here using one verse then the same chorus three times to allow the guitars to really step up to the front here. ‘Holy Water’ is in a similar vein, a rollicking instrumental that is reminiscent of ‘September with Pete’ but without the length or pure balls out WTF experiments that were dominant for parts of that jam. But the band’s skills lie in their ability to craft songs that blend their own desire to have guitars command songs with vocals, a kind of mission statement echoed by ‘I Get Nervous’ what with treated guitar lead and simple clean chords kept as loud as the vocals. When the tempo gets nudged down for album centerpiece ‘Plastic & Powder’ the real energy shines, letting a dark brooding opening section rumble and churn before dropping into a guitar line doubled by Hunter’s voice sounding here as if it were stolen from a Future Perfect outtake and then pitched down a step or so. It’s worth noting that Twin Hand Movement paces itself nicely, letting slower songs have shorter times generally so they can burn and ebb without ever seeming overlong, and apply the same principle to songs that really don’t need time to say what they must (‘A Dog’s Dick’ is all Shellac toned guitars at its core and needs not more than the 2’31” allotted). Hell, the pacing alone of this album seems to make as much of an impact as the music, each turn placed at the right time to keep everything moving as a result. And when each part seems to resonate with itself and everything around it, focusing on everything at once to make you listen to it as one band and composition, it’s hard not to take notice. If only they’d be more upbeat or ‘song-y’ (everything here seems like a jam by-product in some way) things would seem better. Photobucket