Thursday, 4 October 2012

Baltimore analgesia: Lower Dens live in Hoxton

First published in Loud And Quiet

Lower Dens
Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
16th August

Before walking on stage, Jana Hunter takes off her round Lennon glasses. Maybe she can barely see up there, lights flashing in her eyes as she myopically stabs at the keys in front of her, picking out guitar lines with just her fingers' muscle memory.

It's ironic that Hunter might voluntarily handicap her performance with sightlessness as she leads her band through songs from their second album Nootropics, a title referring to those 21st century designer drugs that sharpen your brain and increase productivity. If there's a narcotic haze of any kind floating around Lower Dens, it's the analgesic sort. 

Formed by Hunter after a string of anti-folkish releases in the later 00s, the Baltimore band's subtly addictive strain of nocturnal dreaminess, underpinned by Hunter's fascinatingly ambiguous voice, has been gaining ground on the back of 'Brains', the lead single and linchpin of tonight's set. Climbing to a stirring, unsettling peak, it grasps the crowd tight, shaking us with every beat and graceful chord change as Hunter's cool and distant voice ascends to the climax, causing clenched fists and eyelids tightly shut.

'Propagation' and 'Lamb' are excellent too, but nothing can take away from those five glorious minutes, which remind you that even boring old drums and guitars can still sometimes prompt a little shiver, blindsiding you with a grain of emotion you'd swear you've never felt before. Truly special.

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